Those in the business of news know it well how the very mention of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a headline or a copy attracts millions of eyeballs. This is the power of our Prime Minister in the world of 24X7 news coverage. Be it a positive or a negative story, Modi is a special beat for several reporters.
No media outlet can afford to miss anything remotely associated with the Prime Minister. Every day hundreds of headlines on print, online and television reports are dedicated to the man at the helm of country's affairs. Ask any editor, he/she will tell you that Modi is a "saleable topic"-the best TRP bet-in the competitive world of mushrooming news outlets in the country.
Today's journalism is incomplete without the "subject Modi". It is not only because he is the Prime Minister of the country and requires constant following by scribes. We have had several Prime Ministers and a vibrant media in the past too, but no one has so much arc light focused on him.
The trend of extensively following Modi started around 2012, when the then Gujarat Chief Minister literally started his race for the Prime Minister's office. If for one journalist Modi is a darling, for another he is a subject of criticism. There is no middle path. Again, we can say power of Modi to polarize opinions in the various sections of society.
Modi's love-hate relationship with the media
Prime Minister's love-hate relationship with the media is a well-known fact. It started way back in 2002 Godhra riots, when he was the chief minister of the state. Those scribes who were critical of Modi's role during the riot days are still facing the wrath of his supporters.
Over the years, views of several journalists on the PM have changed drastically. Those who were once known as his adversaries are now his ardent supporters. Modi himself has been vocal about his disdain towards the media. However, the PM and his supporters have always basked in the glory of Modi's praises in the media, especially whenever foreign newspapers and TV channels have eulogized the leader.
Kashmir, media and Modi
Kashmir has been on the boil ever since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was the poster boy militant, on Friday (July 8) in an encounter with security forces in Anantnag. Since then clashes between the security forces and protestors have brought the Valley to a standstill.
Media reports say the death toll in the current unrest has gone up to 37. The number of injured people, including security personnel, stands at 3,140. Curfew was clamped on Friday (July 15) in all the 10 districts of Kashmir in view of Friday prayers which see large congregations as authorities apprehended fresh violence in the Valley.
However, recently when Modi came back from his Africa visit and convened a meeting with the top union ministers and officials to review the Kashmir situation he expressed his "unhappiness" with the way media covered the entire crisis. He was upset with the way the media portrayed Burhan as a "hero".
Media: The soft target?
Whenever anything goes wrong in the country, everyone blames the media for fanning further trouble to an already sensitive issue. The accusation is true to a certain extent. But blaming the media does not absolve the role of the administration. In the current scenario, Kashmir situation has been pushed to the edge because of the failure to understand the ground realities.
Over the decades, the voices of Kashmiris have been ignored. Be it the Congress or the BJP government at the centre, Kashmir in a way has been used as a pawn to settle political score with the neighbouring country Pakistan. There is no doubt, as it has been proven several times, how Pakistan is funding terrorism by exporting terrorists into the Valley.
But what about the homegrown educated militants like Burhan? Why young men in Kashmir in the last few years are taking up guns and fighting against the Indian government? What is the role of army in counter terrorism? Why army men are often given clean chit while they blatantly violate human rights?
What is the role of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) in a democracy? Is Kashmir, like Manipur and Assam, not part of the great Indian democracy? Unless and until Modi government does not come up with clear cut answers to these pertinent and complicated questions, blaming the media by the PM is like washing off his government's hands from the Kashmir cauldron.
Till then, Modi and his men need to understand Kashmir issue in a holistic manner. May be, media reports can prove handy in doing research on the Kashmir problem.