It is increasingly apparent that a section of the media has been feeding us pre-packaged "facts" to suit the interests of a few. We are encouraged to treat these venal fabrications (for that is what these "facts" are) as absolute. We are discouraged from enhancing our awareness of the world around us, and shouted down if we highlight that something is either out of place or hasn't been considered fully.
Our soldiers are not fodder for our crazed fantasies of power or our entertainment.
The recent strategic incursions into Pakistan are a case in point. Leaving aside personal ideological preferences, one is still not completely sure about what happened. The media in India says one thing, while the media in Pakistan says something else. The UN is non-committal about whether it happened.
Regardless of what exactly happened, according to a section of the media, the mood of the nation is overwhelmingly in favour of aggression/war. If (and this is a big IF) this is true and most Indians are in favour of full-blown conflict, then the media is merely pandering to the bloodlust is all of us that seeks revenge for the loss of national pride (after Pathankot, Uri and the increased cross border firing/skirmishes in the last two years). What is equally evident is that they are callously fanning public sentiment in favour of aggression and war. Cocooned safely within the confines of their studios and oblivious to the horrors of war, they blurt out things thoughtlessly to increase their TRPs.
Let them (and those right wing fundamentalists on social media) who're clamouring for India to use its armed forces aggressively to raise our national pride answer these questions:
- Will a war bring back those who died at Uri or Pathankot?
- Will it not take the lives of more soldiers?
- What about the millions of ordinary civilians in the border states (Punjab, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir) who will have to bear the brunt of even a minor military exercise?
- And most worryingly, will both India and Pakistan conduct themselves henceforth like spoilt, tantrum-throwing children retaliating at each other's provocations? Henceforth, are to find satisfaction in ensuring that the other country is just as badly wounded as we are?
- Just when and where are we to stop if we go down this road? When will our national bloodlust be satiated?
As Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Any military action is always the last possible resort to drive back aggressors and restore peace. Wars/military aggression cannot be the means for us to thump our chests, primarily because it comes at the cost of our fellow brothers and sisters. Our soldiers are not fodder for our crazed fantasies of power or our entertainment.
The media's purpose is to report the truth, objectively and critically. It is not their purpose to manufacture consent or fan flames for higher revenues.
All the sacrifice and pain they go through every single day of their lives is to guarantee peace for us. The very least our media can do is not suggest that our government escalate the dangers our armed forces face daily simply so they can get higher TRPs or because it enhances the political legitimacy of the ruling establishment. After all, if we do go to war, it is not the journalists or the politicians but our soldiers who will have to sacrifice their lives. And to what end?
All of this will undoubtedly be twisted, so a caveat is necessary here. This author swears complete allegiance to India and is not doubting the capabilities and courage of our armed forces. He is also not suggesting that we mustn't protect our nation's interests or secure ourselves. The main point being made here is that these goals can also be achieved without war, through diplomacy. Furthermore, our national pride cannot (and should not) come at the cost of our soldiers' lives.
Ordinary citizens, like this author, simply desire a peaceful and harmonious life where everyone co-exists in mutual compassion and tolerance. Unfortunately those who have been fuelling a war-psychosis are promoting the exact opposite. Unlike what they have been telling us, our patriotism and love for India is not premised on hatred and anger towards anyone else. That is an un-Indian thing. The British sarkar succeeded in pitting us against each other once (which is what led to the horror of partition). We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to that poison anymore. Today we are secure in who we are, and who we can be.
India is already a great civilization, and we don't have to resort to aggression/conflict to prove our worth to the world. Today we are a beacon of hope and excellence the world over precisely because we help everyone rise to ever greater heights, and not devote our energies to pulling each other down. That is why Indians have been at the forefront of nearly every human endeavour that has been dreamt of. Regardless of what anyone else stoops to, we don't have to let our baser instincts consume us. Therefore this is a humble appeal to everyone to see, listen and open your hearts to each other (including those millions across the border who simply desire peace).
And finally, while those on social media cannot be reined in, the media can (and should be). The media's purpose is to report the truth, objectively and critically. It is not their purpose to manufacture consent or fan flames for higher revenues. They simply should not create or exacerbate tensions in society. To them, truth (not propaganda) should be indispensable. That is the only way they can serve the nation. If they're unwilling to do, perhaps it's time we find ways to make sure they do.