There is a lynch mob out there ready to get anyone with a contrary view. Most mainstream news channels today are fuelled by patriotism. They feed the ego of thousands who watch battles being fought thousands of kilometers away from the safety of their homes. For those driving this one-sided discourse, everything is black and white; the shades of grey make them uncomfortable and jittery. Those who question are asked to furnish passports! Their loyalty to the country is put through the litmus test by anchors who truly believe that they are the last soldiers defending the country, which will otherwise violently disintegrate. A person raising doubts is turned into a villain who must for the remaining time of the show be rebuked and insulted for being friends of the enemy.
Far away from these professed hallowed grounds there is a different discourse that is going on. This is one that wants to understand, reach out to those countrymen who have views contrary to theirs. This new breed is trying to read between what is never told by those in power. They are willing to hear and debate different sides of the issue. In the last few years, social media has given us some powerful tools, which have been effectively used to bring about change.
I recently read an interesting piece on how terrorists were using it to magnify their propaganda, make them look a thousand times bigger than they actually are. But positives, I believe, outweigh the negatives. For the first time, I see an attempt being made to understand the ground reality. There is an earnest effort to look at both sides of the coin before thumping of chests and challenging anyone who questions the idea of India. Social networking sites have opened up windows to the valley; these were kept closed by many in the mainstream media because they believed that it was an action against the sovereign State.
Those on the ground facing the music continue to suffer because the State believes in a certain policy. As the crackdown continues, more citizens turn against the State. This is perfect for the neighbor who gets a wider field to harvest hate. The alienation only grows as self-proclaimed patriots turn defenders of the government without realizing that their loyalty should be to the country and its citizens!
Of late, along with the word Kashmir, ‘empathy’ is often seen on Facebook timelines, this is encouraging. This is positive – there are also many who are crying for the blood of all separatist leaders in the valley but they are not overwhelming the debate. There is a delicate balance for now between more hate and those who are looking to put back bridges across the lake. The new media brings with it fair share of challenges but is also opening up a new dimension, one that seeks to balance a discourse which would otherwise be driven by the powerful State. There are people in the valley who are using the broadband networks to highlight what’s happening on the ground. This is a time for introspection for the country, this is a time to stand together, the chorus to eliminate terrorists, but with them not the innocent.
Karma Paljor is a senior journalist and author based in Delhi. He is Business Editor, CNN IBN