Spotlight on Global Media Coverage: Has the Pulwama Attack Re-Internationalised Kashmir?
NYT draw link between attack and general elections in India
The political intensity with which the Pulwama attack has been reported by the international media reveals the underlying trajectories through which South Asian politics is discerned globally.
First, international media like the New York Times and Al Jazeera English have included the impact of the attack on the upcoming general elections in India.
Second, the rise of militancy and emerging dissent within Kashmir, especially against the Modi government, has been scrutinized and highlighted.
Third, there is a certain nonchalance in highlighting the terrorist activity of Jaish-e-Muhammad or even delving deeper into the fragmented politics of Kashmir.
To start with, the New York Times has covered the Pulwama attack through five respective narratives. The major story, ‘Kashmir Suffers the worst attack there in 30 years’ (written by Sameer Yasir and Maria Abi-Habib) mentions that ‘responsibility for the attack was claimed by Jaish-e-Muhammad, or the Army of Muhammad, a militant group that is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States Treasury Department,’ but does not term Pulwama as a ‘terrorist’ attack, per se.
While looking at India and Pakistan through the lens of nuclear power, a trend that the US tried to control through sanctions, is also reflected through lines like ‘The latest attack will likely raise tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors, which have fought three wars since independence, two of them over the disputed territory.’
Furthermore, the strangled relations between US and Pakistan is clearly spelt out by stating that ‘Pakistan has grown closer to China as its relations with the United States have broken down over the past decade.’ A certain level of ambiguity is mentioned by not stating the sources in lines like ‘Although the group (Jaish-e-Muhammad) is banned in Pakistan, Indian and American officials say it operates and raises funds in the country under different names.’
The narrative also tilts towards anger and resentment of Kashmir towards Indian government, supported by opinions like ‘An insurgency that was once stoked by Pakistan may have taken on a life of its own, as Kashmiris become more disenfranchised and angry at the central government in Delhi and its use of force.’
The sudden verdict endowed through blunt accusations like ‘Kashmir’s fate was undecided when the British partitioned India in 1947. Since then, India has ignored United Nations resolutions to hold a referendum in the disputed territory, allowing local residents to decide whether they want to join India or Pakistan,’ demands more accountability on the part of India, other than Pakistan. Quotes from Professor Happymon Jecob, a professor in JNU
‘They aren’t joining the militants from Islamic seminaries, but they’re fresh graduates from engineering schools, or they hold jobs. For an entire generation to be so angry with India says Delhi’s policy has been a failure,’ places more scrutiny especially towards the Modi government and its past failure in the hard-line approach towards Kashmir.
Along with reporting the developments of Pulwama attack, NYT also uploaded a story ‘Murders of Religious Minorities in India Go Unpunished, Report Finds’ (By Kai Schultz) stating how ‘The Indian authorities have delayed investigating a wave of vigilante-style murders of religious minorities, with many instead working to justify the attacks or file charges against some of the victims’ families, according to a report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. The 104-page report said that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party was elected in 2014, attacks led by so-called cow protection groups have jumped sharply.’
Al Jazeera English, on the other hand has been extensively reporting about the Pulwama attack. The first breaking story ‘Kashmir suicide attack kills dozens of Indian security forces’ (by Rifat Fareed) does an in-depth report of Adil Dar, the mastermind behind the attack.
Facts like ‘According to rights group Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, 528 people were killed in 2018, including 145 civilians,’ are included. The subtle political narrative has been explained through opinions like ‘Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is one of the world's most militarised regions.
A majority of residents here support the rebels in their fight against the Indian security forces,’ but no sourcing has been provided. An Inside Story episode ‘Can a full-blown crisis between India and Pakistan be averted’ has been hosted by Sohail Rahman, including discussion with Victoria Schofield (Historian and author), Sreeram Chaulia(dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs) and Imtiaz Gul (Head of the Centre for Research and Security Studies). The most recent story about a Pakistani prisoner being stoned to death in India has been uploaded.
Quotes like ‘Indian prisoners stoned to death a Pakistani inmate at a jail on Wednesday amid mounting tensions over a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir that New Delhi has blamed on its neighbour, an official said’, have been used. Several opinion pieces by Ather Zia, Mirza Waheed, Mariya Salim and by Hafsa Kanjwal and Mohamad Junaid also add to the narrative. Stories related to calls for revenge attacks against Kashmiris after suicide bomber kills 42 Indian troopers in the disputed region have been explained.
UK-based The Guardian has reported the Pulwama attack with less frequency. The Pulwama attack has been called the first suicide car bombing in the disputed region of Kashmir in nearly two decades. The report was compiled by Michael Safi in Delhi and Azhar Farooq in Srinagar. Carrying out a neutral stand, the report states that ‘Militant groups have been fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir for 30 years.
Control of the Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in full by both, with a smaller patch administered by China.’ Instead of passing judgments on the current government, the narrative states ‘Modi campaigned in 2014 promising to adopt a hardline approach to militancy in Kashmir, and, with the election campaign about to begin in earnest, he is likely to face pressure from his Hindu nationalist supporters to respond strongly to this latest attack.’ The other report states the violence suffered by Indian police officers while investigating the Pulwama attack.
In a nutshell, the manner in which international media has framed the Pulwama attack reflects the geo-political sensitivity of Kashmir. None of the media platforms have called it a terrorist attack. Also, the frequency with which the attack has been covered by the international media remains low. As the various complicated trajectories of the attack are still emerging, the scrutiny by the international media is important for the Indian government.
(Cover photo: Personnel at the scene of the attack. BASIT ZARGAR)