Omar challenged the veracity of what she claimed to be a dubious version of events.US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar slammed veteran Times of India reporter Aarti Tikoo Singh at a congressional sub-committee meeting on Kashmir, attacking her coverage of the situation in the region as well as her own professional integrity.
Since 1947, the region of Kashmir enjoyed a special status in India based on Article 370 of the Indian constitution. However, India suddenly revoked the article on August 5, 2019, in a controversial move that provoked widespread international criticism and inflamed tensions with neighboring Pakistan. Since then, the Indian government has essentially placed Kashmir on lock-down, having knocked out landlines, internet and mobile communications as well as imposing a strict curfew – however, mobile communication is being restored.
Singh, however, explained that the security measures were necessary, and accused the Western narrative of the situation in Kashmir of being heavily distorted.
“While they are rightly highlighting the instances of violations committed by the Indian security, the story is often presented without context and historical understanding and it also carries a lot of certitude and self-righteousness of a narrative that helps the perpetrators and not the human rights abuse in Kashmir,” she explained at the hearing.
However, Omar challenged the veracity of what she claimed to be a dubious version of events.
“Ms. Singh, a reporter’s job is to find the objective truth about what is happening and report it to the public,” she said in rebuttal to the journalist’s testimony. “You have an enormous audience at The Times of India [the largest selling English-language daily newspaper in the world] and you have an enormous responsibility to get it right. I am aware of how the narrative shaped by reporting can distort the truth. I am also very aware of how it could be limited to sharing only the official side of the story. The press is at its worst when it is a mouthpiece for a government. In your version of the story, the only problems in Kashmir are caused by what you call militants, the only people protesting to break away from India; and are all nefariously backed by Pakistan. You also make the incredible dubious claim that the Indian government’s crackdown in Kashmir is good for human rights. If it was good for human rights, Ms. Singh, it wouldn’t be happening in secret. You make, what I might call, a feminist case for the occupation of Kashmir and communication shutdowns, saying it will be better for women.”
Singh defended her integrity with her decades-long career as a journalist. “My professional record is that I have lashed out at every single government in India on various issues, from human rights violations committed in Kashmir to the lynchings over beef,” she said. “I have a record of being non-partisan throughout… the last 20 years. So for Ms. Omar to say… such accusations against me, is really condemn-able.”
Other Indian representatives at the hearing had views more in line with Omar, albeit not as extreme, claiming that Hindu ideology is being used for political purposes by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP government.
This is reflective of the predominant view in the media, which has repeatedly slammed India for alleged human rights violations in the region.
However, Pakistan hasn’t completely escaped criticism for alleged human rights violations either.
“The number of Kashmiri Muslims who have been killed in Kashmir is immense, and they have been victimized by the Pakistani terror state,” Singh explained. “The 30 years of Islamic jihad and terror in Kashmir perpetrated by Pakistan has been completely ignored and overlooked by the world press.”
She added that the hearing was “prejudiced, biased [and] a setup against India and in favor of Pakistan.”