By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: Politicians and the public in Gilgit-Baltistan have been irked by Indian media reports which have billed political activities in Gilgit-Baltistan as anti-state movements. Many of them have raised questions over their credibility.
These media reports portrayed a video of an election rally, saying it was a separatist uprising against Pakistan. The rally was organised by Awami Workers Party (AWP) as part of the election campaign for Hunza by-elections.
The video, originally circulated by a news agency on Saturday, was shared by multiple Indian media outlets as evidence of an ongoing separatist movement in which hundreds of arrests have been made. In addition, the Indian media also portrayed the Awami Action Committee’s (AAC) shuttersdown strike as a protest against the presence of Pakistan Army in G-B.
“AWP rejects these reports as completely baseless,” read an official statement issued by the party on Tuesday. “AWP calls on Indian news outlets to retract baseless stories regarding this rally. [They should] investigate the stories they are reporting on and not serve as a mouthpiece for government propaganda.”
According to the statement, the video was from an election rally held on May 25 in Altit, Hunza as part of AWP leader Baba Jan’s campaign for the GBLA-6 Hunza by-elections.
“No separatist slogans were raised at any point in the campaign,” he said. “[The rally] was called for Baba Jan’s release. It [also] raised opposition to the corrupt ruling elite and [sought to provide] a pro-people socialist alternative.”
The Indian state propaganda was also rubbished by AAC’s Ehsan Ali, who was a founding member.
While speaking to The Express Tribune, Ali said India used the tactics to conceal the barbarism it has unleashed in Indian-
“We have been deprived of our rights but that has nothing to do with India,” he said. “[They] must listen to the voice from Kashmiris instead of suppressing them. We will settle our issues on our own.”
Sadia Danish, an official spokesperson for Pakistan Peoples Party in G-B, urged India to mind its own business and not poke its nose in the affairs of other countries.
“We rejected [India] nearly seven decades ago,” Danish said, referring to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in which he raised concerns about rights violations in Balochistan and G-B.
“Pakistan Army is ours and China is our [time-honoured] friend,” Danish told The Express Tribune. “There has never been a protest against the army or China anywhere in this region.”
The move was also vehemently criticised by Shujaat Bukhari, a senior journalist based in Srinagar.
“Can anybody tell us how many were killed in Kashmir and G-B in 2008, 2010 and in the last one month,” Bukhari said through a Facebook post. “PM Modi said on August 15 that he had been receiving calls from there for support to end human rights violations.”
“We got five more bodies this morning taking toll to 66,”
The distortion of facts by Indian media has earned the ire of the public. Many of them believe this has also cast a shadow on the genuine concerns of the people of G-B, who have been engaged in a peaceful struggle for their rights.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2016.