While we must demand evidence for the government’s claim that Kashmir Valley is calm, one would be foolish to believe every word the BBC reports.
The British Broadcasting Company (BBC), or Auntie Beeb, is in the news for its Kashmir coverage in the aftermath of the revocation of Article 370 and 35-A.
On 10 August, the channel broadcast what its South Asia Bureau Chief Nicola Careem said is an “exclusive video” of a protest being broken by riot police with men ducking for cover and gunshots echoing in the background.
After the administration in Kashmir claimed that “not a single bullet” was fired in the Kashmir Valley in the last six days, raising questions on the BBC’s report, the channel’s Press Team issued a statement saying it stands by its journalism.
In the latest development on the issue, the government has asked BBC and Qatar’s government-owned Al Jazeera to produce as proof the original videos of the protests broadcast by them. According to the Economic Times, the channels have said they can produce the raw footage if required but have not done so till now.
The government and the local administration in Kashmir have accused the BBC of misleading people with its reports. But as of now, there is no proof in the public domain to suggest that the BBC fabricated the footage.
However, at the same time, no one can deny that Auntie Beeb has a history of blunders and biases when it comes to reporting on Kashmir.
In 1993, when the conflict in Kashmir was at its peak, terrorists occupied the iconic Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar. The Indian Army laid a cordon around it, waiting to tire the terrorists out. Even as supplies of food to the civilians and terrorists inside the complex continued and negotiations progressed, the BBC telecast a report saying India had launched an Operation Blue Star (siege of the Golden Temple) type raid on the holy place to flush out the armed occupiers and reported exchange of fire.
The crisis was resolved through negotiations and there was no damage to the shrine. But the BBC, some accounts suggest, did not correct its mistake.
Just months later, in 1995, Chrar-e-Sharief, a 14th-century Sufi shrine entirely made of Deodar wood, was burned down in an explosion caused by the terrorists who had occupied it for over two months. The BBC broadcast a report on the issue showing tanks and military columns moving on roads, apparently suggesting that it was the Indian Army’s action against the terrorists that had led to the fire.
Outraged by its misleading report, the Indian government and independent observers pointed out that the BBC had used the same footage in its report on the fighting between the Russian government and Islamists in Chechnya.
After BBC ran the report with the wrong footage several times, it was found that the visuals used were indeed from Chechnya, not Kashmir.
During the same time, BBC’s India Bureau Chief failed to correct an anchor when he drew parallels between the burning down of the Chrar-e-Sharief shrine and the damage caused to the Golden Temple during operation Blue Star.
To top it all, the channel, during the face-off, claimed that the Indian security forces had “stormed” the town and “captured” the holy place.
This was incorrect, and BBC Radio did correct itself in its subsequent broadcasts, but the channel’s famed World Service, continued to use the word ‘storm’ when nothing of that sort had happened.
From the events that unfolded following of the Indian Army’s siege of the Golden Temple which left the holy structure damaged, it should not be hard to imagine how such misleading reports could have inflamed passions in Kashmir.
That the then correspondent of the BBC accuses the Indian Army of trying to kill him in a bomb blast reveals the nature of the people the channel associates itself with in the Valley. No wonder it always panders to a certain majoritarian sentiment in Kashmir.
Few can doubt that the BBC is biased when the channel regularly chooses to use words like “rebel” to refer to terrorists and terror outfits who often and openly express their desire to convert the Kashmir Valley into an Islamic State.
Therefore, while we must demand evidence for the government’s argument that Kashmir Valley is calm, one would be foolish to believe every word the BBC and its ilk — Al Jazeera, The New York Times and The Guardian — report on Kashmir.