‘Not Crushed, Merely Ignored’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books, July 22, 2010
A Kashmiri lawyer rang me last week in an agitated state. Had I heard about the latest tragedies in Kashmir? I had not. He was stunned. So was I when he told me in detail what had been taking place there over the last three weeks. As far as I could see, none of the British daily papers or TV news bulletins had covered the story; after I met him I rescued two emails from Kashmir informing me of the horrors from my spam box. I was truly shamed. The next day I scoured the press again. Nothing. The only story in the Guardian from the paper’s Delhi correspondent—a full half-page—was headlined: ‘Model’s death brings new claims of dark side to India’s fashion industry’. Accompanying the story was a fetching photograph of the ill-fated woman. The deaths of (at that point) 11 young men between the ages of 15 and 27, shot by Indian security forces in Kashmir, weren’t mentioned. Later I discovered that a short report had appeared in the New York Times on 28 June and one the day after in the Guardian; there has been no substantial follow-up. When it comes to reporting crimes committed by states considered friendly to the West, atrocity fatigue rapidly kicks in. A few facts have begun to percolate through, but they are likely to be read in Europe and the US as just another example of Muslims causing trouble, with the Indian security forces merely doing their duty, if in a high-handed fashion. The failure to report on the deaths in Kashmir contrasts strangely with the overheated coverage of even the most minor unrest in Tibet, leave alone Tehran.
On 11 June this year, the Indian paramilitaries known as the Central Reserve Police Force fired tear-gas canisters at demonstrators, who were themselves protesting about earlier killings. One of the canisters hit 17-year-old Tufail Ahmad Mattoo on the head. It blew out his brains. After a photograph was published in the Kashmiri press, thousands defied the police and joined his funeral procession the next day, chanting angry slogans and pledging revenge. The photograph was ignored by the mainstream Indian press and the country’s celebrity-trivia-obsessed TV channels. As I write, the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar, and several other towns are under strict military curfew. Whenever it is lifted, however briefly, young men pour out onto the streets to protest and are greeted with tear gas. In most of the province there has been an effective general strike for more than three weeks. All shops are closed. (read more)