At the risk of sounding provocative, one can say that the Indian media has been its worst since September 29, when the Director-General of Military Operations made his statement on “surgical strikes” across the western border. Once the news was announced, the media has abandoned its duty to ask questions; it has pilloried those who dared to; it has been jingoistic to a degree not seen even in war time; it has become the handmaiden of the state; it has indulged in self-censorship; and it has even willed the government to wage war. Is this a mature press, one has to ask.

Of course, there have been differences between platforms (with TV being at the forefront of the ugly display) and individual publications. Some have indeed stood up better than the others. Overall though when the media looks back at late 2016, it will not be happy with what it wrote and screamed about the past six weeks.

How has itself performed?

One can look at’s coverage and analysis in four broad areas: (i) military and strategic affairs, (ii) people’s lives, (iii) domestic politics and (iv) media analysis.

In the first there was a variety of perspectives including one very insightful article by Manoj Joshi, which was also the rare piece in the media that even questioned the Army’s use of the very term “surgical strikes”. In the second area of the impact on the lives of people, there have been some very good reports, like this one by Nishita Jha, on the evacuation of villages from the border areas of Punjab and also on the politics underlying the government of Punjab’s orders. In the third, there were a few pieces on the impact of the Army’s operations on the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party. In the fourth and final area of media analysis, there was fine commentary by Scroll staffers like this, this and this calling attention to the extremist positions taken by the Indian media. An early piece reproduced from Dawn of Pakistan gave thoughtful expression to how the media in both countries has had an unhealthy influence on the perceptions of Indians and Pakistanis of each other.

For me, personally, TM Krishna’s column on 16 October on “gloating” over the surgical strikes was perhaps the finest piece of opinion I have read in any publication – print or digital – on the subject. The fortnightly column, The Thin Edge, with Krishna’s writing on everything from music to caste is turning out to be something to look forward to.

On the whole, has not gone the way of much of the Indian media. Readers have been given a wide range of reports and opinion but this digital publication has been careful not to whip up any nationalist hysteria or stoke the fires of military adventurism.

Kashmir focus

But where has Kashmir been in all the discussions of the past three weeks? The attack at Uri and then the cross-border operation were connected with Kashmir and the unrest in the Valley the preceding eight-ten weeks. Yet, the cross-border operations of end September seem to have pushed Kashmir out of the headlines. Unlike much of the media, did not end its reports and commentary on Kashmir. Compared to its sustained and comprehensive coverage in July and August though, there was a noticeable drop in the frequency with which Kashmir appeared on the pages of

There have still been a few good reports the past few weeks, like Rayan Naqash’s article on school children and exams in Kashmir. And one must commend the staff for the superb round-up of the reportage over the 100 days since the Valley exploded. But this may not be enough. (As I complete writing this column, has just published perhaps the most detailed piece of reportage from Kashmir in recent times, an article by Ipsita Chakravarty on life in two towns in North and South Kashmir.) A longstanding complaint of the Kashmiris is that the rest of the country wakes up to the Valley only when there is “trouble”. So it is important that does not forget the Kashmiri people even if the intensity of the protests has begun to fall.

Aradhana’s death

While the media was sounding the drumbeats of war, there were horrific events around the country. In their criminality, the circumstances surrounding the death in Hyderabad of 13-year-old Aradhana Samdariya two days after she ended her 68-day fast, rival the sati death of Roop Kanwar in 1987. It does seem to me that the much smaller media at the time (dominated by print) very quickly flagged the sati murder as a major issue and kept it up for months, once the news belatedly made the papers. This is something we have not seen even a week after Aradhana’s death. has already published five pieces (two of which were news items) on and around Aradhana’s death. One hopes that if it has the resources, it can sustain coverage and not let the issue fade. Sometimes there are social issues which may not whet readers’ interests but still cry out for investigation and campaigning by the media. To me, this tragedy seems like one such case.


Kaushik Dasgupta from New Delhi wrote after the column of October 6 saying I was wrong to suggest that historians may not have asked why empires in ancient/medieval India did not try to expand outwards from the subcontinent (i.e. “invade” other countries). He says historians have indeed examined this in detail and have given convincing reasons for why many empires thought of and tried but did not succeed. I am happy to stand corrected. This also strengthens my point that our writings on this topic need to beefed up with reference to work by historians.

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