Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kashmir burns but not in newsletter

New Delhi, Aug. 2: Playful hanguls, the Kani shawl, a cricket stadium and a picture of Juhi Chawla in a dry-fruit store — the news from Kashmir in July, as told by the Union home ministry. The July issue of Jammu and Kashmir Update, a monthly newsletter brought out in English, Urdu and Hindi by the home ministry, led with the headline “Saving the Hangul”.
“The Hangul is a large deer. The male deer have impressive antlers, while the female Hangul does not have horns,” the illuminating essay says. Another write-up celebrates the Kani shawl getting a “geographical indication” (GI) tag and says every shawl would now have a microchip to prevent the sale of fakes. “A Kashmir Success Story” is the headline for a report on Noor-ul-Amin’s dry-fruit shop in Srinagar’s Polo View market. A picture of Juhi with the 63-year-old Amin accompanies the story, which informs readers that the shop owner had worked as assistant to director-producer Nasir Hussain in the 1970s before returning to the Valley to sell walnuts, almonds and dried apricots. The colourful newsletter, edited by home ministry officials V. Candavelou and A.K. Dhyani and available on the ministry’s website, is propaganda material and not the place to report the 33 deaths in unstoppable street protests across Kashmir since June 11. Or to point out that Srinagar has remained closed for all but three days in the past two months.
But since the ministry has chosen not to comment on the violence that threatens to unravel the political process in the state, apart from giving the mandatory answers to questions in Parliament, its only voice being heard on Kashmir is the Jammu and Kashmir Update.
Available on its own website jammuandkashmirupdate.com as well as on the ministry’s site, the newsletter paints a rosy picture of the state where tourists are beating the heat and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah is asking engineers to speed up work on the Sher-i-Kashmir cricket stadium. “People continue to lead lives despite everything,” a home ministry official said, justifying the content. Sweet as it may sound, the bitter truth about the seriousness of the situation may have to be told by Union home minister P. Chidambaram tomorrow, when he briefs Parliament on what transpired between chief minister Omar Abdullah and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today. Abdullah, facing the worst crisis of his one-and-a-half years in power, met Singh, Chidambaram, defence minister A.K. Antony, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and foreign minister S.M. Krishna today. And one thing is for sure, the talks at the Prime Minister’s residence had nothing to do with “Tourists Beating the Heat in Patnitop”.

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