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Monday, April 25, 2016

Arnabs of the other side

Reporting facts, expressing opinions and doing service to a particular political cause are three completely different things. The first two fall in the realm of journalism. When some people use the noble profession of journalism to espouse or assail a political cause, they become activists of an ideology and instantly lose credibility. Until we remain completely neutral, impartial and unbiased in reporting and honest in expressing opinions---which are liked and disliked by our readers---we will not be treated as journalists. Unfortunately, most of the political conflicts create activists and promoters of ideological causes in the garb of journalists. Such scribes popularise themselves among the followers of a particular genre with populist rants and monologues but readers often treat their works as ‘service’ to a particular political or religious cause or propaganda. Being intolerant and negatively judgemental is their DNA. These Arnabs do exist in all regimentations. We don’t hate them as being deficient in faculty is never their own fault. We love them too but, in the context of our own conflict, view their journalism as ‘sarkari sahafat’ or ‘tehreeki sahafat’. Committed to total neutrality and objectivity, we are bound by our tenets of the profession. In an attempt to win some brownie points from his masters, one of our local answers to Arnab has, lately, attempted to drag my op-ed on Handwara into controversy digging suggestion and drawing conclusions which neither made nor intended to make. He has selectively picked up words and half sentences according to his convenience, suppressed other facts and tried to mislead the colleagues, who are, fortunately or unfortunately, mature enough to read for themselves and draw their own conclusions without being myopic. I did honestly mention that post-2008, there’s a near-total polarisation in the civil society organs within and outside the Valley. I have illustrated how the jingoistic journalism in the Indian national media has caused an “equal and opposite reaction” in the Valley. That never means a negative evaluation of our esteemed colleagues who have worked, and are still working, in the most challenging circumstances. There can be exceptions, but in totality, we have all the good reasons to be proud of our fraternity. In the same article, I have mentioned that “vested interests” are turning the Handwara girl into a football and tossing her from one post to another without caring for her dignity, safety and future. I am entitled to that opinion on my own observations. I have not made a minute suggestion that “Kashmir’s journalists” are players in this game as I strongly believe they are not. Unfortunately, this greenhorn has attempted to spread such kind of an impression. However, he has met with a miserably lukewarm response and he had failed to attract a single comment of convenience. Not one of our esteemed colleagues, who know me closely over the last 26 years, has been misled with the rant of our dear fatwabaz. He has not mentioned my name but rated me among ‘apologists’ and written: “And the irony is that those who are questioning the professional credibility and integrity of Kashmiri journalists are pro-establishment, pro-power, and some extensions of the Indian state”.

First, someone like me, who has upheld integrity in the worst of the conditions in the last three decades and faced threats and attacks from different sides for being professional and for refusing to become sarkari or tehreeki in the reporting, does not need certificate of integrity, from the people who have accidentally sprouted out of the conflict in recent years.

Second, I am proud of it, that I have reported the excesses, atrocities and aggressions of all sides and I have never kept one eye open and another shut. Those who are “pro-power, pro-establishment and extension of the Indian State” do not expose the scandals, suppression and human rights abuse of the power, establishment and its organs. During my years with Daily Excelsior, I singularly did a series of stories on the assassination of Jaleel Andrabi, on hundreds of fake encounters and custodial killings. It was me alone who first reported how an Army officer blew up the 20-year-old bridegroom Tahir Makhdoomi of Tujjar Sharief on the first night of his wedding. Still our fatwabaz has invoked the phrase which fits only on those who do jingoism in the name of journalism from one side or another. I need not fail LitFests in Kashmir for political reasons and at the same time facilitate Indo-German joint ventures of musical concerts for personal benefits. Why should I ever be anybody’s “apologist” and “extension of the Indian State”? This whistle could be blown to the combatants with some other rant! And when our “friend” was passing his fatwa from his drawing room, I was as usual busy in digging out how the Government had dumped a magisterial enquiry on the killing of a 22-year-old Kashmiri student shot dead by CRPF. “Apologists” and “extensions of the Indian State” don’t do that. They do collaborate.

Third, I have never given two hoots to intellectual bullying or blackmail. Not even when everybody here lived at the mercy of the unbridled gunmen of all hues. What I will feel, I will write and report according to the diktat of my conscience and accountability before Almighty, and under the fear of intellectual bullying and the barrel of the gun.

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

April 23, 2016

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