The deadly attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy by a suicide-bomber which killed over 40 in Kashmir on Valentine’s Day was the proverbial lightning rod for studio warriors of what former Indian Express editor Shekhar Gupta calls the “commando comic channels“.
Hashtags like #IndiaWantsRevenge roared on Republic TV.
#AvengeAwantipora and #PakKeTukdeTukde on NewsX.
#IndiaSeeksJustice on Times Now.
On India Today, news director Rahul Kanwal (below) was all glowering, as he and his colleagues Gaurav Sawant and Shiv Aroor pranced around the studio sets building scenarios of what is potentially in store between India and Pakistan.
Ravish Kumar of the Hindi channel NDTV India, was watching all this and more. On his well-regarded 9 pm show Prime Time, Kumar delivered this calm monologue (loosely translated):
“I have an appeal to make.
“Before coming on air, I saw a number of TV anchors hurl words soaked in blood. That we do not need condemnation but retribution. That we must attack, take revenge. It is possible that the government is thinking along those lines. But we must be careful of such language at moments like these.
“All of us.
“You must understand the politics of the words of the anchors. Our soldiers have lost lives. Every incident is not a movie plot where an anchor can shriek and shout and provoke. It is best we pay tribute by staying silent for some time, by talking softly, by thinking of what must be passing through the minds of families.
“Many of them will be hoping and praying that the photograph of their loved ones does not flash on screen.
“The government’s response is one of restraint, but why are anchors in anticipation of such moments, when they start talking the language of taking out. The martyrdom of people cannot become a race for TRPs.
“This is not the moment, but I am compelled to say this: where were these anchors on December 13, when these para-military forces, holding the national flag, congregated at Jantar Mantar in Delhi in thousands. Were these anchors shouting, screaming, shrieking in favour of these men?
“What were these men demanding? One rank one pension, special pay, CGHS dispensaries in every district, concessions at the canteen like the Army. They were making these demands on the basis of their bravery and service, from which anchors are now firing.
“Search for these protest videos of December 13. The media is called to air their demands but the media soon disperses. Why is the media which becomes so aggressive after a terror attack absent at protests which decide the lives and futures of these para military forces? So it is important to think of what is going through the minds of families at moments like these.
“Anchors say they are purveying the feelings of the people, but do these anchors purvey the feelings of the para military forces when they step out on the streets with genuine demands.
“Provocative language only ends up being used for political purposes; it does not solve problems. The anchors should know because they have used such provocative language before. The media has worsened the situation in Kashmir, not improved it.”
The Information and Broadcasting ministry put out an advisory for “private TV channels”, but evidently after 56 months, the “commando comic channels” consider themselves part of the government bouquet to respect it.