Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mr. Fai and the Indian Media ...

"As someone who has spent the last sixteen years reporting kashmir...."

The second part of that tweet has not been reproduced above because it is not relevant to our discussion now. This was tweeted by NDTV Group Editor, Barkha Dutt, last year during the violence in Jammu and Kashmir. She made every attempt to enlighten us about her long drawn experience in Kashmir. Ok, now let's come to the present.

Kashmiri American Council, with the tagline (Freedom for all, Freedom for Kashmir) is a US based organisation. Basically it is a "think-tank" that organises seminars, meetings, etc to try and influence the US position on Kashmir. From their tagline, it is pretty much evident what their ideology is. In a shocking development, the FBI arrested the Director of Kashmiri American Council, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Fai because it was revealed that all along, this KAC has been funded by, lo and behold, the ISI !! This Pioneer report quotes the US attorney as saying that ISI funded Mr. Fai to even contribute funds to elected officials, organise high profile conference, seminars etc. And amongst those who have been invited (and have attended too) are multiple Indian "left-liberals".

Before we are accused of hyping up a non-person and non-story, here's what Praveen Swami, the foremost expert on security issues in India has to say about Mr. Fai - "For decades, Dr. Fai was the most visible face of Kashmiri secessionism in the West: presiding over a succession of high-profile conferences for which delegates were flown in from across the world and flying from one world capital to the next rallying support for his cause."

Now, for someone like Barkha who has been covering Kashmir for the "last sixteen years" (well, seventeen this year), shouldn't this story be one of the highest priority to report? The "most visible face of Kashmiri secessionism" in the West getting arrested doesn't even warrant a tweet from her? Prominent amongst those who enjoyed Fai's hospitality is Dileep Padgaonkar. Dileep Padgaonkar is the one of the three interlocutors appointed by GoI to discuss the J&K problem. Now, how do we trust if Mr. Dileep is not influenced by KAC's position? Another prominent person whose trips were funded is Rajinder Sachar. Remember the Sachar committee report? I am only citing two names here (some other names in this report here), which are enough to ring alarm bells and yet NDTV does NOT percieve this to be newsworthy enough? Should we not be grilling these "eminent personalities" on the details of their discussions? Should they not come out and openly declare the nature of their association with this ISI funded initiative? Even if they did not know this earlier, isn't this a good enough reason to come out fully in the open?

Before you pounce on us saying English TV media did cover the arrest - the debate here is about the amount of coverage. Hillary Clinton's visit, British PM's reply to parliament, Cash for votes, illegal mining in Karnataka (yes, believe it or not, news channels still have breaking news on that!), the yet-to-begin Lord's test (with images of Sachin Tendulkar's son bowling to Suresh Raina) - these occupied most the coverage. Fai's arrest was buried somewhere amongst these. Only TIMES NOW had a full fledged discussion last night (and unfortunately I couldn't get to watch it).

Fai's arrest also brings into focus the multiple "Track-2" diplomacy "efforts" that take place, from time to time. And again, most of the invitees from both sides of the border are either retired officials or current journalists. Who pays for them? What topics are discussed at these "track-2" meetings? Why don't all those who attend write about these meetings? What are the conclusions reached? Who decides on the way forward? And if at all any decisions are taken, or any messages are passed - who goes and gives it to the government? How can we be now sure that these efforts are not funded by nefarious elements? Why do journalists shy away (no, actually when I asked them the above questions, most of them never bothered to reply also) from putting all these out in the open? What qualifications do they have to run "diplomacy" between the two countries?

Fai's arrest happened some 36 hours ago. The Pioneer and Times of India were the only ones to report and front page it yesterday. Others like The Hindu front paged it today. About the TV channels - well, we discussed them above :) . Why is the Indian media so reluctant to discuss this and the above asked questions in detail? Is it because there is a conflict of interest? Is it because those who fund their junkets disapprove of threadbare discussions that will paint them in bad light? Or is it because they are so incompetent to get their priorities so wrong? Either way, most of these channels stand exposed, yet again, of their double standards.

PS: Special thanks to fellow tweeter "CodedVirus" for pulling out that old tweet (he has this superb knack of finding them in minutes :) ).

PS2: Shameless plug: If you are interested in the second part of that tweet and all that happened during the summer of 2010 - some blogs here that detail them :) . Don't miss this one - gives the number of people dead day-wise breakup


Indian Girl said...

I am such a fan of yours

Sudhir said...

@Indian Girl - Thank you :)

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