Wednesday, May 27, 2009

From world's highest militarised zone to India's hottest woman

Naseer A Ganai

The Guinness World Records is a reference book published annually from the UK, containing an internationally recognized collection of world records, both human achievements and some bizarre extremes of the natural world. There are scores of examples of Indian citizens, who over the years tried hard to make it to the Gunnies Book of World records, or who finally made it.

Shridhar Chillal of Pune grows nails. Five nails on his left hand together measured 205 inches. Here no one questions the relevance of the long nails. It is up to the individual who makes it to the Gunnies. Chillal tried to make it through his nails.   
He is not alone. There are others in India, who have grown long moustaches to figure in the Gunnies Book of the world records. Media reports says that Kalyan Ramji Sain of Sundargarh had grown, by July 1993, a moustache measuring 133.5 inches; one of his predecessors, a life convict in a New Delhi jail by the name of Karma Ram Bheel, received the permission of the prison in-charge to keep his moustache untrimmed, which by 1979 had grown to 7 feet 10 inches. And media has repeatedly reported about these individuals and their feats. There is another one. His name is N. Ravi. He stood on one foot for a record 34 hours. As the Guinness Book states, "The disengaged foot may not be rested on the standing foot nor may any object be used for support or balance."
Girish Sharma, we are told, improved his record ten years later by nearly 22 hours. Swami Maujgiri Maharaj of Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh remained standing for 17 years, thereby establishing a world record that no one is likely to break too soon. "When sleeping he would lean against a plank ", says Guinness Book.
The latest is an Indian mother who is set for an entry into the Guinness World Records after eating 51 of the world's hottest chilli in two minutes. Anandita Dutta Tamuly, 26, gobbled up the "ghost chillis" in front of visiting British chef Gordon Ramsay in the north-eastern state of Assam in April 2009. The Associated Press reported that Miss Tamtty "felt terrible", because she had managed 60 in an earlier local event. Ramsay tried a chilli but said "it's too much" and pleaded for water. Ms Tamuly told AP that she used to eat the chilli as a child "while children of my age roamed the village to look for berries".
The Times of India too had carried the story. Atul Lahkar, a local chef, told the Times of India that Ms Tamuly also "smeared seeds of 25 chillies in her eyes in one minute with the crowd simply awestruck". The previous record for eating was held by a South African with eight jalapenos in a minute. Guinness World Records has not yet formally confirmed the record. One Indian portal described her as “India's 'hottest' woman, all set to be 'hottest' in world.”
In nutshell, Indian media has reported every bit of news about Indians who have made it to the Guinness Book of World records. And both print and electronic media has reported these achievements in detail. Nothing wrong with it. However, the Indian media proved us wrong last month that it gives lavish attention to Guinness book of world records. In its 2009 edition, Guinness Book of World Records described Jammu and Kashmir as the ‘largest militarized territorial dispute’ in the world, a fact which didn’t get any space in any electronic news channel or the newspapers. Even in Kashmir the news didn’t get much coverage. 
Here is what the Guinness Book of the World Records, while quoting American Intelligence Agency (CIA) fact book, said about Kashmir: “The dispute between China, India and Pakistan for the Kashmir region is the largest and most militarized territorial dispute currently taking place on the planet earth.”
The record book reads: “At any time, up to one million troops confront each other across the Line of Control that represents India and Pakistan administered Kashmir,” the book mentions on page 137 in the chapter ‘modern life’ under the banner ‘World at War’. This is not the first time when media in India has ignored the militarization of Jammu and Kashmir. In fact most of the pro-India mainstream parties are talking about the demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir as one of the confidence building measure to settle the dispute. But the Government of India insists that troops in JK are to maintain the ‘law and order’. How long? Neither the J&K Government nor the government of India answers this question. Since 1947, we are being told that Indian troops in JK are here to maintain the ‘law and order’. It’s unbearable that 60 years down the line that same law and order continues to be a problem and it requires huge deployment of troops in JK.  
In 2006, the then Law and Parliamentary Minister Muzaffer Hussain Baig, while participating in a debate on human rights said that “all six lakh troops are not angels.” Baig’s was an exceptional statement that was denied by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of India when local newspapers reported it the next day. 
There is no data available with anyone about troops deployment in Jammu and Kashmir, and officials usually avoid the question. However, it is generally believed that the GoI has deployed some 7 lakh troops in J&K. By that logic, it is not only highly militarized area but one of the world’s most disproportionate wars in the world. There are only few Indians that have talked about the militarization of Jammu and Kashmir including the Booker prize winner Arundathi Roy and human rights activist Gautum Navlakha. Roy in one of her articles described heavy presence of troops as war against people of J&K, not against 800 militants.
The question is not what the Indian State is doing in Jammu and Kashmir particularly in Kashmir valley and the Muslim dominated districts of Jammu. The question is how, over the years, Indian mainstream media and its civil society has blocked the information about ground realities in Kashmir and has projected different picture, which is more about tourism and terrorism.
If growing moustaches, growing nails, taking chilies makes headlines in the newspapers and breaking news in electronic media, why this piece of information was suppressed? The question is not what the Government is doing and what it ought to do, the question is on the credibility of Indian media. And why, when it comes to Kashmir, it hardly cares about credibility, objectivity and fairness? It has no courage to tell people what they don’t want to listen. The latest example is Kashmir figuring in the Gunnies book of world records as the highly militarized region in the world.

(The writer is a Srinagar based Journalist working with Greater Kashmir)
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