BCSC Seminar on National Security Threats & Role of Mighty Media held

India remains the world’s largest democracy and one of the fastest growing economies in the 21st century. The country is being recognized for its middleclass educated professionals, its cultural influence, diaspora, economic growth and global expertise. Every major religion in the world is practiced in India, and the roots of its secular and cultural traditions are embedded deep in India’s glorified past. India’s national security problems thus emerge from a number of factors such as its history, geography, colonial legacy, socio-cultural and ethno-religious traditions, population, and social and economic disparities.

India has been grappling with national security issues for many decades with internal security being the major cause of concern. Terrorist attacks have attempted to destabilize the country to a large extent. Governments have attempted evolving a comprehensive National Security Policy to eradicate the scourge of terrorism as well as tackling the related challenges of sectarian, religious and ethnic clashes. While the government is inviting input from various stakeholders towards the conceptualization of the security policies, one essential contributor should be the media.

The media has become an important tool of the statecraft in the modern era. It is the ‘fourth estate’ which helps the state to further its interests, objectives and goals. Since the dawn of information revolution and the use of media for ‘attaining war objectives by other means,’ media is an important element in opinion making/building, creating heroes & villains, and creating monsters & enemies.

Media increases its significance as an influential and instrumental tool with regards to building confidence among people on issues related to national security.

The media – print, electronic and social – has a variety of interests of its own and set goals to be achieved. It has its share of rogues, incompetents and avaricious vultures. Yet, at its best, the media provides the nation with a vital service it can get nowhere else. The fact remains that the media is an essential component of national security and can play the role of a force multiplier for the security forces.

The Indian media in relation to coverage, discussion and analysis of India’s national security matters has sometimes displayed a deplorable insensitivity to genuine matters of national interests and national security interests. In this respect the electronic media is more to blame with their attempts to encapsulate complex national security issues into thirty second “sound bites”.

We need to emphasize with the media fraternity the importance of the understanding of India’s national security needs, and the role it can play in maintaining a steady and efficient Government. We need to put forward need for an effective cooperation between the State and the media in India to counter threats to national security in a phased manner. The tryst of Indian media with its contemporary security challenge and the role it plays in counterterrorism strategies, makes the task of incorporating media in the national security strategy even more unavoidable.

What media can do…
· The force of the newspaper is the greatest force in civilization…
· Newspapers form and express public opinion.
· They suggest and control legislation.
· They declare wars.
· They punish criminals, especially the powerful.
· They reward with approving publicity the good deeds of citizens everywhere.
· The Newspapers control the nation because they represent the people

Proceedings of the Seminar:
Shri Vijay Kumar ‘Bharat’, Convenor BCSC heartily welcomed the audience present in good number and offered bouquets to the esteemed speakers. The Chief Patron of BCSC, Justice DS Tewatia, Retd. Chief Justice of Kolkata High Court was warmly welcomed and his blessings were sought before commencing seminar’s proceedings. Capt. SB Tyagi, General Secretary of BCSC gave brief introduction to BCSC – its activities, mission and future plans. He conducted the seminar further after sharing the meaning and philosophy of the BCSC Logo.

Shri DC Nath, IPS (Retd.), Patron gave overview of the seminar theme and underscored the importance of the media in present context where information hungry citizens try to command verities of source – print, electronic and social media. Late or wrong information can be disastrous as much as too little or too early! He shared his concern that such media related seminar should have had more representation in audience.

Shri Arif Mohammad Khan – Presenting public perspective, he was eloquent about the intolerance and bias exhibited by media sometimes as they tend to be choosy about news and subjects for discussions. Media tries to command over other’s views. Related to ‘Shahbano case’ he said that when there were threats issued against those supporting the Supreme Court decision, no media aired or showed this news. He quoted BhagwatGeeta saying that it tells, “He is my follower who doesn’t scare anyone, and is not scared of anyone.” He said Quran also has many similar verses. He emphasised that parting statement of Barak Obama teaching India on merits of ‘Pluralism’ happened only due to tolerance of India and he couldn’t dare to make similar statement in Saudi Arabia!

Shri Madhav Das Nalpat – He presented media perspective on seminar theme. He stated that wrong interpretation of Islam is followed more world-over and also that most Indian Muslims are moderate and believe in correct interpretation of Islam. Extreme fringes do not represent the faith but such elements are being funded and financed by West. He underlined that Islamic State is not about territory, it is an idea that needs to be fought against. The role of media becomes important since it has to spread awareness of what is right and what is wrong. In today’s horizontal world, our mind is free of prejudice and there is no supremacy or superiority. Everyone is equal! Strongest security cadre is ‘informed citizens’ and media does that empowerment!

Gen. Ata Hasnain –Bringing defence perspective, he was very candid in sharing Armed forces’ analogy on secularism and religious tolerance. Giving example of his illustrious father, himself a General in Indian Army, he narrated as to how his father – lone Muslim officer in his regiment brought his unit from Peshawar to Saharanpur refusing offers to remain in Pakistan. He led Aarati and puja in his army formations as naturally as he led Namaz. He stressed that those countries which are created on religion may be happy in short period but parish soon. For any military campaign, information is of utmost importance. All the strategies and plans are based on it and their timeliness and correctness will decide the outcome. Therefore media needs to partner with the Government and play its role most responsibly and with accuracy.

Swami Vishalanand– Social perspective was shared by him underscoring the fallacy of the often used word – tolerance. He said that we instead of ‘tolerating’ neighbours, other religions, casts or creeds, we need to ‘respect’. For him ‘respecting’ is more meaningful and profound than banal ‘tolerance’. He said that those feeding and patronizing terrorism elsewhere declare to eliminate these powers once they themselves get affected and media encourages their bravado and jingoism rather than retribution and exposing! It is not war against terrorism but it is simple revenge in that context. Casts, religions and Societies are not the terrorists and criminals, only few of them are and when ‘carpet bombing’is resorted, killing innocents, and declared as ‘collateral damages’. This needs to be opposed yet media do not take-up such matters more effectively. Media says ‘don’t look at my plate’, yet in same breath it tries to ‘look on other’s bedrooms’! Freedom of expression has become freedom of suppression!

Shri RasBihari– Most important and part of logical succession of the seminar theme, Journalism Perspective was shared at the end of the seminar. He shared to highpoints of correct journalism and how against heavy odds journalists are gathering news. However in absence of clear guidelines and transparent regulations good efforts and honest initiative do not get recognized always. He emphasised the need for framing guidelines for print and electronic media and also to form ‘National Media Council’.

Shri KPS Gill, IPS (Retd.), Chairman of BCSC – In his Chairman’s Address he firmly stated that Khalistan Terrorism is gone, dead and buried deep! Yet, Media which along with whole India should have celebrated is instead showing efforts for its revival! He lamented that since there are no guidelines and control for media it tends to hype at times. He therefore advised to not be overawed by media’s role which even when very important, is not the only option to propagate right information since information can be reached anytime, anywhere and cannot be supressed or twisted.