The 14th of February marks the one year anniversary of the Pulwama Terror Attack. The heinous terror attack claimed the lives of more than forty CRPF Jawans and caused grievous injury to the collective conscience of the country. However, in the moment of the heinous act of terrorism by Pakistan sponsored terrorists, there were some people who were using it to further their own political agenda. The conduct of the mainstream media in the aftermath of the Pulwama Attack was indeed deplorable and disgusting, to put it mild terms. Even as the funeral pyres of our martyrs had not turned cold, the media betrayed them.
In what was perhaps the worst article of the previous decade, The Caravan published a caste-wise analysis of the deceased martyrs. In its efforts to accurately capture the data, the journalist even called the families of the martyrs to inquire about their caste in their moment of unimaginable grief. The journalist himself, Ajaz Ashraf, belonged to the same religion as the Pulwama terrorist. However, a dedicated effort was made to deflect attention from the religion of the perpetrator and pin the blame, instead, on the Upper Castes.
It wasn’t the only evidence of the moral depravity of the mainstream media that was on display in the aftermath of the Pulwama Terror Attack. Soon after the identity of the terrorist became known, the mainstream media engaged in a full-scale effort to whitewash the sins of his family. It even provided a platform for the family of the terrorist to blame the Indian Armed Forces for the path his son had chosen to tread.
The mainstream media relied on the family of the terrorist to claim that he had chosen to become a terrorist because he was supposedly harassed by the Indian Army. Nowhere else in the world does it happen that the media rushes to air the views of the terrorist’s family that casts aspersions on the conduct of the Indian Army days after a terror attack that claimed the lives of so many.
Furthermore, the mainstream media worked hard to absolve the sins of the family entirely and humanize them. A report published by the Hindustan Times claimed that the ‘family of the Jaish operative can’t believe he joined militant ranks’. Apart from the obvious omission of Muhammad from the name of the Jaish-e-Muhammad, the media house tried to paint the family as completely innocent when it is extremely likely that the seeds of radicalization were sowed in the terrorist’s own house. And yet, we are asked to participate in a suspension of disbelief and completely embrace the terrorist’s family’s proclamations of innocence.
The other extreme instance of disgusting conduct by people in the media was the deputy news editor of NDTV glorifying the terrorist attack. She was eventually suspended for a couple of weeks by the propagandist news network. She had said in a Facebook post “where a grisly 44 has been proven to be greater than the mythical 56”. With this, she had added a hashtag #HowstheJaish, a take on the famous dialogue ‘How’s the Josh’ from the movie Uri: The Surgical Strike.
Pakistan was even relying on Indian media and ‘intellectuals’ held in high esteem in liberal circles to peddle the narrative that the Pulwama Terror Attack was a false-flag operation. Ashok Swain’s tweet from December 11 where he had insinuated that the NDA government could trigger a conflict with Pakistan to reap electoral benefits was used by none other than the former DG-ISPR of Pakistan Asif Ghafoor to claim that the Pulwama terror attack was orchestrated by the Indian government.
Ghafoor had also made comments along the lines of The Caravan caste-analysis report in his efforts to slander India. Not only that, but Ghafoor had also mentioned the video of the terrorist’s parents, which was widely reported by the Indian media, where it was insinuated that Adil Dar turned terrorist because of maltreatment by the Army. He had said, “He was under arrest in 2017, security forces maltreated him, there is a video message by his parents as well. Please see that to realize how he was forced into a situation where he resorted to such a violent response.”
The conduct of the mainstream media while covering the Pulwama Terror Attack and its aftermath has been atrocious. And yet, the worst offenders have received great praise from the ’eminent journalist’ in the community. Ravish Kumar, for instance, spoke of The Caravan in glowing terms days a day before the Balakot Airstrikes. At the same time, he claimed that there was an effort underway to sow religious discord within the ranks of the Indian Army.
One would have expected the media to engage in a period of deep reflection and serious introspection following their pathetic coverage of the terrorist attack. However, nothing much appears to have changed since then. The more things change, the more they remain the same. And it appears extremely unlikely that the conduct of the mainstream media will get any better any time soon.