News Channels in India and Pakistan are hypothetically fighting the "War" post Pulwama terror attack, it is interesting to note, that, lust for blood has overtaken the national narrative in both countries. None of the news anchors in either of the two countries would have vaguely faced the bullet, even while covering counter-terror operations. But when it comes to call for action, they are heard the loudest. The language used, is at best atrocious and hits the bottom in the same breath as most of it is, below the belt. I am particularly amazed at the vitriolic vomited by news anchors in Pakistan. The debase language, jesters and axioms used against PM Modi, Gen. Rawat and above all Indian populace is downright disgusting. A lot has changed between 1999 - Kargil war and 2019.
Despite fighting the war in May - July 1999, Indian & Pakistani media, never went to the extremes as they have today. Pakistan was the aggressor, India was defending its territory, still, none of us reporters or news anchors talked of annihilating the other of its existence. Not a single journalist in Pakistan could abuse Former PM Vajpayee and none in India talked of nuking Pakistan.
Firstly, let's talk about the warmongering anchors and reporters - those who are fighting the war from their studios and demanding retired military personnel to create war scenarios and decode India's victory path. Have you ever been close to a bullet travelling at mind-boggling speed tearing through your flesh, cracking open your bones, gushing blood from your veins leading to cataclysmic loss of senses. If not, then my fellow News Anchor, you have not even begun your journey of a bullet wound, forget a bullet in your heart!
Two life-altering experiences have changed my perspective of facing the bullet and made me realize, the tremendous grit of our forces that is required to fight the enemy in a battle.
In 1998, while returning to Srinagar from Anantnag, I was informed by a friend in 15 corps, that an encounter is in progress in a village close to the national highway. With all the protective gear in place, I was sheltered in a school building, which was not really in the line of fire along with the army top notch. To quell my thrust of an evolving journalist, I asked my cameraperson to record my piece to the camera (PTC) while the firing continued. After all, how many times are you so well placed during an encounter that you could talk to the camera while bullets are flying past you? 20 seconds into my PTC and I felt something wheezes past my right ear - something hit the brick wall behind me and flit from the brick grazed through the left side of my head. In an inadvertent reaction, I touched my ear and held my head. Blood was oozing out from both. I had not been hit by the bullet, but it had passed near my right ear and hit the brick wall. Being airlifted in an army chopper to the base hospital, my thoughts revolved around the fact that I got saved by some millimeters - "millimeters" was the distance between life & death. The fear of death took over later, but the oozing blood was reminder enough of what it could have been.
The second incidence took place in 2002. As an embedded journalist with Rashtriya Rifles CI ops in the upper reaches of Kupwara, I was witness to the action of gunning down of nine heavily armed terrorists, who had crossed the LOC. Towards the end of the gunfight, had the Group Commanding officer not swung over the grenade which had landed between my cameraman and myself, I won't have lived to narrate the tale of that fateful encounter to my audiences on television. Those few seconds - a fraction of a second, is still etched in my mind as my balance between life and death. For nights thereon, I had trouble sleeping and would wake up in cold sweat. Had it not been for effective counselling thereafter, I would have been a nervous wreck.
Contracting my experiences, today I see news anchors talk of taking revenge - tangible action against the enemy - incite the audience with thoughts of all an out war - when they shed tears over the slain faceless soldiers and raise a war cry - I pause and ask myself - given an opportunity will even one of the television reporter or News Anchor prefer to go on the front. Let alone going to the front, will most of the hallowed Prime Time faces even go close to the border when active bombing is going on. Most would sit in their air-conditioned studios, pontificate about the vagaries of war and speak to the family of Sheed soldiers - and yes, call for more another revenge.
Let, decisive and saner minds, decide and take the call, as people governing the nation know best. Let's not think from our gut, but from our head.
Yet again, the big question that pops up is - what if the people in positions of power are actually inciting, goading, propelling and promoting warmongering? Yes, this is the point that needs actual probing.
India is faced with the mother of all Parliamentary elections. Its a do or die for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). And likewise, for a majority of opposition parties. It's an open secret, that if BJP loses power in 2019, recovering from this loss would take a long time - a very long time. Possibly the current leadership may not even get an opportunity to occupy the seat of the Prime Minister. Similarly, if Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Left Front, Rashtriya Janta Party (RJD), etc, exhibit a dismal performance - they all were might be faced with political oblivion. More so for the Congress as a looming defeat, is its biggest drive towards a coalition front. In the midst of these high stakes, warmongering benefits the party most, which is best suited to encash national emotions. A political outfit that can tap the national anguish best in the aftermath of 40 slain CRPF men.
And almost identically in Pakistan, the fate of Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Bajwa hangs in balance of either exalted prominence or complete oblivion - given the fact that he retires from active service in four to five months. That, Pakistani PM, Imran Khan is a nominated Prime Minister, is a well-known fact, not just in Pakistan, but internationally too. That's the reason, Gen Bajwa made a sudden appearance at the ground-breaking ceremony at Kartarpur Sahib. For the same reason, Gen Bajwa was the man of the hour with Saudi Prince Salman - was seen with Prince Salman at all important meetings - the army PR (ISPR) was feeding minute by minute update of Gen Bajwa's efforts at securing $20 billion for Pakistan, while Imran Khan was just left being a "chauffer". A devastating terror strike on Indian forces - the certain backlash with warmongering, is the ideal setting for a decisive Pakistani Army Chief to enforce his iron grip on the nation. The aggressive, chest thumping, the constant baying for Indian blood on television and absurdly abusive language of News Anchor in Pakistan - is a telling tale of this scenario. The more the noise, the better it is for the Pakistani populace to hold on to its Army Messiah - Gen Bajwa.
With such minds at work in both, India and Pakistan, can we expect saner minds to work? Not really !!
It's going to be anybody's guess as to which way this tide of frenzy will end, but one thing stands clear - the people of the two countries, India & Pakistan - will be the biggest losers if a war is unleashed on them. Neither politicians nor a journalist, news anchors, retired Generals or even industrialists would suffer. It will be the common man and the families of the soldiers who die at the front - it will be them, who will bear the brunt of an unwanted war, unleashed by the wave of news television coverage.