The Indian government, and its armed forces, may still be deliberating how to respond to the devastating attack in Pulwama. But many sitting in TV news studios have already decided what needs to be done: India must go to war with Pakistan.
Republic TV said #IndiaWantsRevenge. And then said it over and over again, with Arnab Goswami asking whether India has “any other option but to hit back?” TimesNow’s Navika Kumar asked, on a segment the channel calls “Legitimate Questions”, whether India had reached a “point of no return as far as Pakistan policy is concerned?”
Even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi said nothing about it, India Today’s Rahul Kanwal concluded that he is “ready for all consequences, including limited war”. News18’s Bhupendra Chaube went so far as to say that the United States should go to war with Pakistan.
As expected, TimesNow’s Rahul Shivshankar decided the moment should be taken to discuss banning people from contesting elections:
Across the TV landscape, almost everyone was off calling for war – except when they cut to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, despite the Bharatiya Janata Party saying it was cancelling political events that day, continued to ask the people to vote him back to power with a bigger mandate.
One viewer said he spotted ABP News even using clips from Uri, a recent Bollywood film that dramatises the surgical strikes of 2016.
As Newslaundry pointed out, the one thing that was missing from many of these channels demanding war, was actual reportage on things like the plight of the families of the jawaans or the state of the paramilitary forces:
“If you were to tune into Republic TV at 9 pm, you wouldn’t be informed about any of the details of the Pulwama attack. The channel’s Commander-in-Chief spent a mere minute or five informing his audience of the wheres and whats, before moving on to choreograph shouting-matches between his panellists who were divided into various groups: “Pak Will Pay” lobby, “Govt To Blame” lobby, “Stop Aman Ki Asha” lobby, “Just Lip Service” lobby. These were actual labels plastered over his panellists’ heads.”
One incident on Zee News is a good example of just what the tenor of these debates was like. The anchor had Major DP Singh on as a panelist. Singh is a veteran of the Kargil War in 1999, when a part of his right leg was injured and had to be amputated.
On the show, according to his post on Facebook, Major DP Singh apparently attempted to make the point that, “a soldier is still ready to sacrifice his life for tiranga [tricolour] but alongside we need to ensure that kashimri youth is getting more motivated to become L/Nk Nazir Wani, double Sena Medal & Ashoka Chakra (a terrorist turned soldier & attained martyrdom) than the jihadi terrorist like Waqas commando. Efforts to be made in that area too. If a pagal padosi can enter my house and radicalize my youth and I am unable to guard them, perhaps somewhere I am wrong.”
The anchor’s response, according to the Facebook post, was to say that “perhaps you have not seen the pics of Pulwama that is why you do not agree that only solution is revenge, Badla.”
The entire episode prompted a long comment from Singh, that ended with these words:
“No one can even try imagine what it takes to lose life or limb. And then knock doors of court to get justice and dues.
We want soldier to die but his widows will knock door to get pension and rightful dues ( to some it needs to prove that her husband is martyr as the body couldn’t be found and she was told to get the body to take pension)
We want soldiers to die but wounded ones need to go to court to get correct pension (even I had fought for 7 years in AFT to prove that I am a war casualty and get my correct pension)
There are 1000s cases pending in courts. ( despite SC judgements and instructions to withdraw unnecessary cases, MoD is the biggest litigant)
Don’t make mockery of lives and kill soldiers.
Don’t use emotions for selfish business of earning brownie points.
Indian Army and CAPF knows what to do and when to do. They had in past and they will keep doing justice to the situation with appropriate action.
You do not have to tell us what to do, pls.
But after all they all have right of free speech.
And who cares.. soldier is easily dispensable 😕
Indeed, one of the most persistent themes from those who had actually been in the military forces was calling for restraint, rather than pressure the government to rush headlong into a war.
As usual, NDTV India’s Ravish Kumar struck a slightly different note from the rest of the TV fraternity, cautioning against knee-jerk reactions and baying for blood simply because it makes for better television. As his monologue, transcribed by the Indian Journalism Review, put it,
“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...
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.”
For more on Pulwama attack
- ‘Absolute abject failure’: Pulwama attack reflects absence of policy in Kashmir, experts say
- With February 14 attack, CRPF in Kashmir has lost more men in 2019 than in four years put together
- ‘By the time this video reaches you, I’ll be in Heaven’: The teen behind Kashmir’s deadliest attack
- ‘We lost a hero’: Kerala village mourns CRPF man killed in Pulwama attack
- As Jammu erupts in violent protest against Pulwama attack, fear grips Kashmiris in the city
- Ajai Sahni: Belligerent rhetoric on Pulwama attack can’t make up for lack of strategic planning
For more on Jaish-e-Mohammad and Masood Azhar
- Searching for Jaish-e-Mohammad: Pulwama attack is a throwback to the peak of militancy in Kashmir
- Let’s be clear, the Pathankot attack is not an attempt to derail the Indo-Pak peace process
- Why making Masood Azhar the litmus test of India’s ties with China is not a great idea
- Making sense of the botch-up at Pathankot