Wars create heroes out of individuals who show great courage. But wars also create clowns who clothe themselves in patriotism, and strut and fret their hour upon the stage. The rising tensions between India and Pakistan over the past few weeks have resulted in many of the latter, at least on this side of the line of control. On 14 February, a young Kashmiri man named Adil Ahmed Dar rammed his vehicle full of explosives into a security convoy carrying Central Reserve Police Force jawans in Pulwama, killing at least forty personnel and wounding many more. Since then, journalists in India, in particular on television, have discarded their mufti and their objectivity—though not many had it in the first place—and wrapped themselves in the Indian tricolour. Their jingoistic calls for war began soon after the Pulwama attack, and reached a fever pitch over the past two days, during which India conducted air strikes at Balakot, a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, followed by a dogfight with the Pakistan Air Force the next day.
It is necessary to differentiate these journalists from those who expressed sympathy for the CRPF jawans and their families, which is compassionate—nobody deserves to die the way they did, even if it can be argued that the jawans were aware of the risks their profession poses. Some journalists understandably expressed their condolences. But for others, emotion began to colour their reporting, blurring the lines between the professional and the personal.
Indeed, the affliction that took hold of some newsrooms was baffling. Network anchors fell over themselves to outdo one another’s displays of patriotism, complete with bizarre visuals of landscapes enveloped in billowing smoke, graphics that would be hazardous to those suffering from epilepsy and hashtags dripping with patriotism, shattering any barrier that may have existed between a state-propaganda channel and a credible news network.