Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rally in Srinagar is a clear evidence of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s desperation of showing its presence in the disputed Kashmir region. Contrary to the ground realities, the party claims to have great support in the province. However, it requires no unusual intellect to comprehend their pose. On one hand, they say the people in Kashmir support them as they are fed up of the ‘dynasty rule’ of the father-son and father-daughter duo. On the other hand, to conduct an election rally in Srinagar they are compelled to impose strict restrictions around the city, have multi-level high-tech security arrangement around the venue, bar mobile internet services, and paralyze normal life of common people. Moreover, Kashmir witnessed complete shutdown while Modi claimed love of its masses. The question remains, on what basis do they claim support in Kashmir?
The word ‘support’ has been mutilated to death. As an observer, I can be in agreement with the support of candidates of regional parties who conduct multiple rallies, many times bigger than the prime minister’s rally, and do not require this kind of security blanket. The ultimate support, in my view, is to the separatist leaders of Kashmir, who roam around the region without any special security and conduct large public rallies in open. This reminds me of the event when one million people marched towards historic Eidgah in Srinagar on the call of separatist leadership a few years back and not even a single person or leader got hurt. Octogenarian leader Syed Ali Geelani did not need such security on the day and the crowd was apparently not brought in by the party-sponsored transport. The crusaders of pro-India sentiment seem to have forgotten the mass uprising that Kashmir has witnessed many times. Their narrow-minded nature only lets them see a few thousand people attending Narendra Modi’s rally while the whole city remains under siege. A simple question, unlike in Samba, why did not Modi conclude his speech in Srinagar with pro-India slogan “Bharat Mata ki?” Does this signify anything?
Although people in Kashmir know the reality very well, what goes against our aspirations is wrong portrayal on the national level. The people across India are constantly exposed to the propagandist information that supports the Indian viewpoint on the Kashmir issue. The popular phase ‘integral part’ is strategically programmed in the minds of common people, who at individual level are ignorant of the ground reality. There is no doubt that Indian citizens are influenced by the reportage of the media there. Almost everyone outside the State, whom I have ever talked about the dispute, hold the common Indian viewpoint that the State is wholly being developed by Indian government and it is the integral part of the union of India. We cannot blame them for ignorance. They are being exposed to this information every day.
Giving no surprise to the Kashmiri people, most of the national media organizations followed their trend of biased reporting from Kashmir once again on Monday when the prime minister addressed the election rally. Since early morning, they were busy showing heightened security blanket around the venue and other parts of the city. No doubt, the situation remained somehow peaceful during the rally, but the ground reality is that the city was under complete cordon and strict restrictions were imposed in and around the venue. The people observed shutdown on the call of separatist leadership but it seems that they never saw it. They were more interested in the crowd at the Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium, which in actuality was brought in from distant parts of Kashmir and did not wholly represent the party’s support in Srinagar. Days back, a party representative claimed that they were making arrangements to bring in supporters from parts of Jammu province. Even Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that two trainloads of supporters were brought in from Banihal area of Jammu. According to the BJP’s candidate from Amira Kadal Assembly constituency – Hina Bhat – it did not matter if the crowd came from different parts of Kashmir, what matters is that they were ‘Kashmiris’. Moreover, the party had claimed that one lakh people would attend the rally. When proven wrong, did anyone question them?
The national media always present the stories from Kashmir in the pro-Indian manner. The high voter turnout in the ongoing elections is presented as the success of democracy and rejection of separatism in Kashmir. Similarly, the rallies of the Bharatiya Janata Party are shown as an evidence of their presence in the disputed Kashmir region. This is not contrary to what we expect from them. This is the reason why people here repeatedly blamed them for their prejudiced reporting of Kashmir dispute. The role of media outreach in bringing BJP to power in India is not concealed. It seems they are trying out with similar practice in Kashmir also. Although the debates about their intention, policies and support will continue, the result will decide their fate. Let us wait for December 23, the day when their claims will either be abolished or to my surprise, they will come up with flying colours.
Author is the founder / editor of JandK Now and a student of journalism and mass communication at Amity University, Noida. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vijdankawoosa
The article was first published on www.risingkashmir.com