Arnab Goswami, the Man Kashmir Views In ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’
(This article is from The Quint archives and was originally published on July 4 2016. It is being re-published following his decision to quit as Times Now and ET Now’s Editor in Chief.)
Arnab Goswami has been trending all through last week, courtesy his interview of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In Kashmir, though, Arnab is always trending. Kashmir’s equation with Arnab can be summed up as ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Every Kashmiri, from the bureaucrat to the university student to the shikara wala, seems to have a grievance against Arnab. The question is only of the degree of grey.
Any Kashmiri who makes it to Arnab Goswami’s The Newshour, and can stand his ground through the anchor’s interrogation and media trial, gains instant celebrity hood in Kashmir. Across Srinagar and various towns in the Valley, while many Kashmiris eat dinner, they watch The Newshour.
Arnab’s silences and outbursts both are dissected at leisure, during or after his show. And if his show has any Kashmir link, it becomes the talking point of the Valley for the next few days. I have observed that Kashmiris tend to regard The Newshour as an instrument of hate. When they talk about this news program, they usually refer to it as the “nafrat failaane waala show” (the show that spreads hatred).
Does Arnab have Biases Against Kashmir?
Kashmiris feel that Arnab Goswami is highly biased against them. They believe that Arnab discusses any issue related to the Valley in strictly black and white terms of ‘national’ and ‘anti-national’. On the other hand, any good or positive news emerging from the Valley is seldom discussed on such news shows, popular across the nation.
Weather in Kashmir Valley is highly unpredictable, and can suddenly take a nasty turn. Often, while undertaking the long trek towards the Amarnath shrine, tourists can get caught at a precarious stretch. Despite extensive efforts made for the yatra, sometimes government help is not available. At times like these, ordinary Kashmiri villagers have offered hospitality and care to the tourists and yatris countless number of times. With tourists visiting the Valley in large numbers over the last few years, it has often happened that the Kashmiris have saved the tourists and cared for them warmly during difficult times.
Kashmiris have come to the rescue of Indian tourists many times. Only recently, a Kashmiri boatman by the name Ghulam Mohammad Guroo lost his life while saving three tourists from drowning in the Jhelum.
Negative Profiling of Kashmiris
On the other hand, it is the dominant feeling among Kashmiris that Arnab only picks those issues that can allow him a free hand at Kashmir-bashing. Hence, the aftertaste of an Arnab show is bitter in the Valley. Even as Kashmiris continue to remain glued to his show, they feel revolted by what they see as his anti-Kashmir bias. Arnab is seen as highly aggressive against the Kashmiris. His perceived anti-Kashmir bias rankles them. I have heard Kashmiri youth say that Arnab’s attitude embitters and hardens them. They don’t like his negative profiling of all Kashmiris. The reason for the dislike of Arnab’s show is that Kashmiris often feel unfairly targeted by The Newshour.
Perhaps, Arnab has no idea of how much harm he causes through his constant Kashmir bashing. In any edition of The Newshour, where Kashmiris feel that Arnab has trained his guns on them, many youth say they are left seething with rage. The grouse of most Kashmiris is that Arnab does not brook a differing viewpoint. If somebody disagrees with him, he is shouted down or cut off. Most Kashmiris complain that on the other hand, when innocent Kashmiris are killed by indiscriminate police firing during a protest, Arnab is not outraged.
Understanding the Valley and its Issues
For the Kashmiris, Arnab has come to symbolise all that is wrong with the Delhi-centric, national media. The high ratings of The Newshour have led to anchors on other news channels trying to become Arnab clones. During a recent discussion, some Kashmiri students told me that they have never seen Arnab or the Arnab clones discuss anything good or positive regarding Kashmiris. With other news channels and anchors rushing to emulate the success of Times Now, Kashmiris feel that the same aggression towards them seems to be replicated on other channels.
Talking about the incident in which the boatman lost his life, some youth brought up a thorny issue of the national media’s negative projection of Kashmir. They said that sometimes, fights or arguments can break out between a tourist and a local over a minor issue. If there had been such a fight where a tourist got injured, Arnab and the larger national media would have lost no time in again painting the Kashmiri with a black brush, said the university youth.
The irony remains that even though The Newshour is disliked in the Valley, it is also perhaps the most-watched news debate in Kashmir. But most Kashmiris do not agree with Arnab Goswami’s black-and-white approach to Kashmir. They suggest that Arnab Goswami should stop viewing Kashmir through a negative prism. Instead, he should know and understand the Valley before pronouncing harsh judgements on it.
(The writer is a social activist from Jammu and Kashmir and can be reached at @AfanYesvi. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)