The recent ban on Print media and the blocking of internet services in the valley is an act of cowardice on the part of the Government. The authorities put a halt on local coverage because they don’t want the rest of the world know about the brutalities being perpetrated on the common Kashmiris. Though we went through a similar situation in 2008 and 2010, this time the situation is entirely different because today sympathy is pouring in from the various corners of the world. A new wave of ‘Burhanization’ has swept through the valley. The aggression and the anger that we see among the people today speaks volumes about the oppression that Kashmiris have been subjected to for more than 69 years.
While some might say that Burhan became popular because people saw him as a symbol of resistance, no one can deny that it was the social media that helped the Hizb Commander to not only spread his message but also make a place in the hearts of the people. While I am not denying the fact that social media can be exploited by rumour mongers as much as it can be employed by sincere people to promote their ideas, it would be foolish for us to deny the power of social media. Maybe this is why our government is very quick about banning not only the internet but also every kind of media whenever any political turmoil strikes the valley. But, imposing bans and caging people is not a viable solution. If anything it only serves to further agitate and alienate the already alienated youth of the valley.
Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh tweeted “I appeal to the people of J&K to remain calm and maintain peace. Center is working with the state government to bring normalcy in Kashmir valley”.
I really fail to understand how a population of seven million people are supposed to maintain peace and calm when they are being forced to remain confined to their homes and disconnected from their near and dear ones. Also how ironical is the fact that the said minister is using the same medium to reach the people which his government has banned in the first place. I wouldn’t be surprised if he only wrote this to gain some praise and some coverage on the so-called leading news channels, which propagate falsehoods on Kashmir.
Another irony is that our chief Minister, the person who runs our state issues a statement saying that she is not aware of the media ban in Kashmir. If it wasn’t her who ordered the ban, then who ordered it and who is actually holding the reigns? It clearly reflects that J&K government has no control over Jammu and Kashmir and all power lies with the center. After the RSS-BJP alliance, the state government has become a complete puppet and they have left no stone unturned to help promote the center’s agenda in the valley. Commander in Chief of the RSS-BJP alliance, Ms Mehbooba Mufti is not only supportive of their suppressive tactics, she is proud to work under the Indian constitution. The same constitution that provides us the freedom of speech and expression.
Article 19 of the constitution provides freedom of speech that is the right to express one’s opinion freely without any fear through oral, written or electronic means. However the Constitution does not make any special or specific reference to the Freedom of Press. The protagonists of the “Free Press” had called it a serious lapse of the Drafting Committee. However, the freedom of expression includes freedom of press. Dr. Ambedkar while speaking on behalf of the Drafting Committee had said that the press has no special rights which are not to be given to an individual or a citizen. Dr. Ambedkar further said that the editors or managers of press are all citizens of the country and when they chose to write in newspapers, they are merely expressing their right of expression. So, the word expression covers the press and in modern times it covers the blogs and websites too.
Censorship is used to restrict the freedom of speech to maintain the status quo. But in Kashmir it is a kind of dictatorship as the armed forces empowered with AFSPA are using deadly weapons and adopting a “shoot to kill” policy. Our brethren are being killed with bullets and the government is talking about maintaining peace and calm. Banning, prohibition and arrest of media personals is illegal, unconstitutional, a serious attack on freedom and unacceptable in a democracy. The authorities should desist from such policies and unconstitutional actions and allow the press to function freely.