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The terror attacks of 14th February woke the nation up with its devastating news. The incident at Pulwama, Jammu Kashmir impacted everyone across the country and people wanted some clarity from the government. The anger that built up amongst Indians was easily seen on all online platforms and more prominently on the news channels across the nation. People were angry and yearned for justice but many were unaware of the costs that come along with such an act of revenge. Costs that any responsible citizen is well aware of in such fragile situations and how any minute action by either party has the potential to result in a full blown out war. Interestingly, people were aware of the possibility of the war and still continued to wholeheartedly support it and even claim it to be a necessary step that should be taken by the government. Most of these individuals were completely unaware of even the actual facts of the incident and ignorant of the massive destruction that war brings to any country. They were completely blinded by whatever was being said on social media and more importantly on a few media channels that they watched so closely. While famous trusted journalists showcased a seeming exuberance for war, many blindly followed and the voice of a few who were rational enough was maybe drowned in all the chaos.

A 20-year-old suicide bomber, identified as Adil Ahmed Dar, rammed an SUV car loaded with 350 kilograms of explosives into a bus carrying troops of CRPF personnel. This suicide bombing critically injured many and claimed the lives of 40 innocent officials. This has been by far the deadliest attack in Kashmir since 1989.  A militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed full responsibility of the attack and also released a video of Adil who had apparently joined their group after he had been beaten up by the Indian police (Gurung, 2019). The impact of this attack was felt across the country and a day which has always been known to celebrate love and togetherness now had a national horror etched forever in the memories of millions.

India was quick to blame Pakistan for the attack since the militant group’s leader operated from the country but Pakistan denied any involvement in any such planning. Soon after this, many incidents followed. Four more army personnel were killed on the 18th during a gunfight with militants. India however, did not remain silent much to the appeasement of the raging public. A “pre-emptive non-military action” against the terrorist organization of Jaish-e-Mohammad was conducted, popularly referred to as the ‘surgical strike’ (The Hindu, 2019). The careful use of the term is purposely done by the Indian government to make clear that its intentions upon crossing the LoC were to not attack the state of Pakistan but rather the organisation that claimed responsibility of the Pulwama attack. The United States condemned Pakistan for harbouring terrorists and promised to support India in its future counterterrorism measures. Applause echoed all throughout on media channels followed by the public which had been filled with rage searching for an opportunity of revenge.

By entering into the LoC, India has breached upon the territorial sovereignty of another country. Although India upon its careful use of the term “non-military” makes its case clear, the breach cannot be ignored and can be easily used by Pakistan in any international forum. What these media houses failed to recognize while propagating war is that these are two nuclear countries which could lead to massive unimaginable mutual destruction. A politician was seen making a bold statement about how this ‘surgical strike’ was not enough and the country needed a war. While many channels did not engage in such propaganda but others, like The Republic, were seen to showcase an extreme anti-Pakistan sentiment condemning the government for not taking stricter actions. Pakistan flags were burnt across the country which was given more than necessary coverage by the media. They were found reporting 300 casualties as a result of this surgical strike without any official statement released by the Indian government.

The Pakistani government, however, rejected the casualties and claimed that the area bombed was mostly greenery and woods. The discrepancy is one such example of misrepresentation and misguiding by the Indian media. It questions the legitimacy of the attack itself and offers the public nothing but confusion. The lack of any direct address by the prime minister or the foreign secretary also added to public confusion which highly relied on whatever was being fed to them by a few media houses which left such misinformation uncorrected and therefore part of the public record (Vijayan, 2019). Other important issues and causalities occurring around the nation were easily sidelined for the frenzy that revolved around the attack and its information broadcasted. Anger is understandable but this is dangerous rhetoric and such media houses, even if they were only a few of them, have the power to guide the public through their content and they did nothing but give it encouragement for the sole purpose of gaining TRPs. Such hostilities also boost the ruling party’s reputation in the midst of the upcoming 2019 elections with support coming from their affiliated media channels. They take advantage of the anti-Pakistan sentiment and some parties steered this public anger in the direction of anti-Islam feelings making this entire scenario a Hindu-propaganda.

There was never a problem between the citizens of the two countries. Kashmir has been largely an issue persisting or what some might claim fostered by those at the leadership level. War does not reduce any of the problems, either in Kashmir or at the border. Kashmiris are largely still isolated, public dissent in the region continues to grow and terror attacks exist, if not grow since the Pulwama attack. Their remains an absolute lack of any employment opportunity and an ever-increasing presence of terrorist activities in Kashmir. Citizens of the state continue to feel ignored and many of them resort to joining the militant groups to a point where the insurgency is actually being fuelled by the local grievances. Their life has therefore been lost in the politics revolving the state. The pro-war propaganda created and fostered by the politicians and the media is dangerous and the price of the war will never be paid by such people but rather by those at the border. Ultimately the land which has been fought for decades is not as important as the people living within it- their access to opportunities, higher standards of living or even their basic right to a normal life.

References

Gurung, S. (2019). What happened at Pulwama and the History of terror attacks on convoys. Retrieved from The Economic Times Website: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/what-happened-at-pulwama-and-history-of-terror-attacks-on-convoys/articleshow/68019194.cms?from=mdr

The Hindu. (2019, March 3). From Pulwama attack to Wg Cmdr Abhinandan’s release: A timeline. Retrieved from The Hindu Website: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/from-pulwama-terror-attack-to-wg-cmdr-abhinandans-release-a-timeline/article26423658.ece

Vijayan, S. (2019). After Pulwama, the Indian media proves it is the BJP’s propaganda machine. Retrieved from the Washington Post website: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/03/04/after-pulwama-indian-media-proves-it-is-bjps-propaganda-machine/?utm_term=.3bf0179570b4

Image credit: Times of India

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Written By Gayatri Nagu

Student O.P. Jindal Global University

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