Might is Right

I can empathize with Kamran because my struggle, like his, began three years earlier than his 23

M.L. Kotru
Srinagar, Publish Date: Feb 24 2018 11:33PM | Updated Date: Feb 24 2018 11:33PM
Might is RightFile Photo

Kamran Yusuf is the name, a bare 23 summers old, a photo journalist, to wit, a  camera his weapon of choice which, I learn, he used well, and with professional abundance. Now, Kamran, I also believe, is a freelancer which, in plain language, means he is not on the payroll of any news organization. A fiercely competitive world it is, the free-lancer’s. More or less a free bird, you might call him, but one who must, in order to professionally survive, excel, be one up on his colleagues attached as  a “ regular” to a news outfit. More or less, the nature of his calling requires him to strive forever to be do better than  the competition. Professional survival requires it to be so. He must strive for the odd angle, of the oddest of subjects, human interest his loadstar, the key to his success. Usually, a young man or woman possessed by the will to be right there, where the action lies. Constantly on the run. And those blessed with the enthusiasm of youth and a keen eye do usually make the grade in the dog-bites-dog competitive business of news photography. So I have every reason to believe that Kamran must be a very keen, competitive young man wanting to beat the opposition. I can empathize with Kamran because my struggle had, like his, begun three years earlier than his 23. But unlike my beginning, when some refugee camps still existed in and around New Delhi and I did literally spend a few months in a shared tent of the now buried Punjab University Camp College in what was then the Ridge behind Raisina Higher Secondary School  in New Delhi’s Gole Market area. I was  sharing the tent with a regular student there who later became a pioneering  cartographer-cum-illustrator for almost all Delhi-based papers. Kamran was born and brought up in a land which has known anything but peace from before his birth and the impressionable young lad he must be, he obviously had made a conscious choice of a career. Sad, therefore, for  him and for all those who have preceded him or are now serving alongside him or his ilk, that today, as I write, should be the 172nd day of his incarceration, arrested and made to face charges framed by no less an organization than the National Investigative Agency, yet another intrusive arm of a government which sees a traitor lurking round every bend, from  Ballimaran in Old Delhi to Kasganj and Muzaffarnagar in UP  and from the galis and koochas of downtown Srinagar to the killing- fields of Shopian and  Kupwara. NIA, contrary to the expectations raised when it was formed, has during the short time of its existence, turned out  to be another name for a compliant and mostly unwelcome arm of its political masters, doing precisely what it is asked to. And in its newly acquired arrogance the NIA all too obviously believes that it just can’t go wrong. The case of Kamran best illustrates the delusional, make-believe world of many imaginations. In its eagerness to build its case against Kamran the NIA appears to have assigned to itself the role of telling us what journalism is about. And, what its expectations are from what we crazy people sometimes call the fourth estate.To make out its case the NIA, obviously will not hesitate to  suggest  a  virtual “code” of conduct for the media, a role best left to professionals,  or even  to the faltering Press Council of India, projected for long as a watch-dog (an ineffective one at that)  for all media-related issues.  The very nature of a journalist's job makes the suggested “code”  of  the NIA’s making, as outlined in its charge-sheet against Kamran, untenable and indeed in serious conflict with the animal called free speech and free Press. The NIA would require a future journalist like Kamran and one on the verge of extinction like me to follow a path that has already caused the highly over-rated agency to be bracketed with discredited investigating agencies such as the  CBI,  political weapons of  a ruling party at the Centre. The charge-sheet filed against young Kamran by  the NIA, a virtual redefinition of journalistic ethics, is  a wish list in fact of the agency and its political masters, making a mockery of whatever free speech and a free Press are about. Listen to the burden of the NIA’s song; had he (Kamran) “been a real journalist… he may have performed one of the moral duties of a journalist which is to cover the activities and happenings in his jurisdiction….he had never covered any developmental activity of any government agency, any inauguration of a school building, hospital, bridge, statement of any political party in power or any other  social developments; activity by the State Government or by the Government of India”. Yes, Kamran did probably fail, as alleged by the NIA, but how many of these so-called news stories  would have made it into or to your TV screens. Yes, if I were Kamran I would eve now go round or hunt out old negatives from the morgue to make a picture portfolio of all the foundation stones of schools, bridges, power stations laid over the years by any number of political bigwigs  and have continued to remain just that, foundation stones, with not a brick added over the years. Such statements made by responsible people and at their behest by supposedly neutral investigative agencies are revealing of a dangerous mindset. Perhaps one that helps subservient officers to please their masters in the hope of a posting, a promotion or, who knows, even  a post-retirement gubernatorial assignment or  as the  head of one or the other commission of inquiry. Dangerous times these indeed must be. Can’t imagine a Chief of the Army Staff, as did Gen. Bipin Rawat three days back, making that extraordinary reference to demographic changes occurring in Assam and somehow linking  these  to terror in Jammu and Kashmir, with Pak-China axis never out of sight. In the case of the NIA’s charge-sheet against Kamran  its framers would never have heard of the adversarial role of the Press or why a free Press is referred to as the fourth estate. Surely the Kamran charge-sheet cannot be the handiwork of a thanedar or an IO, and what it  says has an ominous ring  to it. As someone who has been professionally around for over six decades and a survivor at that ( with some others)  of Mrs Gandhi’s Emergency, I do recall with some pride, the days when we would boast of challenging or exposing  the government, its leaders and their henchmen. Wonder why most of us now tend to flinch when it comes to challenging the government even when we know we are right. Yes, even with an attendant bagful of facts and figures to support our case. The ugliest part of it all is the divisions that are sought to be perpetuated among lay citizenry, across the board, all over the country. The divisions are  emphasized and sharpened each passing day. Hate seems to have become the watchword.

 


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