Hashtags, Viral & Trending- Far From Reality!

On 12th Jul, the anchor of CNN New 18 was lambasting a participant on her show from across the border on Kashmir Chemical Jihad. She was explaining to her viewers the diabolical plan of Pakistan Army- ISI- Hizbul Mujahideen Nexus plan of using chemical weapons in Kashmir. It’s all #Kashmir Chemical Jihad trending on her debate. She claimed to be in possession of an audio tape of a Kashmiri terrorist leader’s conversation with his handlers across the Line of Control. Now, that really caught my attention. Then, she proceeds to broadcast her much awaited evidence and there it is… the so-called terrorist leader discusses his avid plan to use chemical weapons in the valley against security forces. Then its all #Is India Prepared for Chemical Attack?. Slowly, the prime time debate moves to highlight the devious design of our ‘Friendly Neighbor’ and a set of so-called defense analysts, self claimed defense experts and some retired armed forces personnel from both sides debate over for the next few hours. They proceed to attain new decibel levels, blame game and name calling. An hour or so, these defense experts, analysts and retired armed forces personnel move to the next news channel and continue their foray. It is all Trending News and Mending Money. A poor viewer like me, sits and watches these news items and prime debates from 6 PM to 10 PM, feels ecstatic about the lambasting.

A couple of days ago, a dastardly act of terror was carried out by terrorists on a group of Yatris (Pilgrims) who were moving back post their visit to Amarnath Shrine. The pilgrimage is an annual ritual carried out in the summer months and involves tremendous planning and coordination by a number of agencies. There are two routes to the Shrine on either side of the Mahadeo mountain range, an offshoot of the Great Himalayas and on an average,0.2 million pilgrims visit the Shrine. The conduct of the Yatra involves preparation by all agencies that commences by April and culminates post completion of the pilgrimage. The pilgrims register through an online portal and their move to the valley till the Shrine and back is monitored and controlled by security agencies. In spite of a number of security instructions given through various medium, a number of pilgrims visit the valley without registration and it is the monitoring of these unregistered pilgrims who also undertake tourist activities, creating a major challenge to all the stakeholders. The attack on July 10th was on one such unregistered vehicle. The pilgrims post their visit to the Shrine proceeded to visit Srinagar and were returning back to  Jammu, when their bus got punctured en-route. I am sure their further movement ahead would have been either tagged or information passed by some ‘Eyes’ to the terrorists, who went about killing unarmed civilians making it one of the most deplorable act in humankind.

The national media ran the cover story for two days, on the night of the incident the media tried to reconstruct how the terror attack happened and the second day, they covered the bereaved family members and the funeral. I waited for a day or two more to write my blog, as I m sure most of the mainstream media had moved to more trending new stories such as China, Pakistan, Cow Vigilantism, Rajnikanth’s entry in to Politics, Rahul Gandhi’s statements, Karan Johars tweets etc. Thus, the loss is only to the family members, rest all of us sympathize for a day and get along with our lives. This is not something new, the mainstream and social media sites create a lot of hue and cry when a soldier is martyred due to Pakistani firing or terrorist attack on a convoy, but pass over to more so-called trending news in a day or two. We Indians suffer from Short Term Memory Loss syndrome, our minds are akin to stock trading, moving from one hot stock to another. In simple words, we don’t value lives and we just don’t care about others.

The attack on the Pilgrims have changed the contours of terror. Social media and networking ran a number of ‘Hashtags’ such as #Islamic Terrorism and #Blame Intelligence Failure. Well, Hashtagging and Trending online is different, being on ground is altogether a different ball game. It is easier to sit in an air-conditioned office and type on a branded tablet #Blame Intel or criticize through an article on a leading daily. The man with his boots on ground toils day and night, puts his life at extreme risk and ensures the security grid is in place for events of national importance such as Amarnath Yatra. And there are so many things he does, generally unspoken, which his countrymen assumes that its is his/her bloody job to do. Many news channels ran praise of the driver who drove past when he was being fired at, but no one knows about the heroics of a 23-year-old young doctor of the Armed Forces who spend the next six hours providing medical aid to the 18 injured that led to the saving of at least four more lives. She and her small team was stitching up patients in a pool of blood. Nobody cares, because her countrymen feel…its her bloody job.

Lets talk brass tacks, this is not going to be the last attack in the valley. The initiative is with the terror outfits and they are going to create new targets with every possible opportunity. Tremendous efforts go into preventing such attacks from happening which generally go unreported. The valley witnessed negligible incidents during the protest calls by the Separatist from 08-13 Jul. Barring the attack on 10 Jul, there was no incident of protest or agitation reported. This is an indication of the efforts put in to prevent large-scale incidents and ensure normalcy prevails in the valley.

Then, how can the mainstream media help in the efforts? Well, to start with they can come down here (for a change from the air-conditioned offices) and feel normalcy as it exist here. Secondly, they can stop projecting Kashmir as a problem. The lambasting and negativism of the valley showcased by the media is not helping the cause. Thirdly, stop finding solution to the Kashmir imbroglio. For decades, many statesmen and leaders have put their brains into it, they haven’t found a solution yet, and you expect to solve it over a prime time debate. Well, these prime time debates only add to the existing complexities as a lot of venom gets spewed over such debates. Lastly, try showcasing the normalcy that prevails here. This can help in developing the state economy which is tourism dependent.

I hope our media understands the complexities behind the conundrum. It requires consolidated efforts by every stakeholder to improve the situation and the media including social media plays a vital role. Hope, someday better sense would prevail!

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