Friday, September 17, 2010

Where are the videos?

A few weeks ago, a so called aid convoy from Turkey set sail to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. The flotilla did not break the blockade and ended up with a few causalities. As usual, the world media lapped up the story that those who were killed were peaceful protesters. And then the IDF released videos which called their bluff. These were videos shot from the helicopter which was monitoring the Mavi Marmara. The footage showed activists attacking soldiers with weapons. These videos may or may not make Israel's position in the world any more or any less credible, which is a different story in itself, but remember they are fighting a war with proof, not bromide.

This is not new to IDF. In the last "war" with Hamas, IDF videos clearly showed rocket launchers positioned amongst civilians and in schools; it showed how civilians were being used as cover as well. These videos were presumably shot from planes. Indeed, IDF has a youtube channel where it puts up its videos for the world to see and decide for themselves whether they are merciless killers or they try and do an as clean job as possible given the state they are in.

Sure, videos can be doctored and photos can be doctored (as we saw in the Mavi Marmara case), but not any more or less than statements from so called sources can be genuine. War, as we all know by now, is just not a war fought with weapons. It is also a war about propaganda.

How is this of interest to us? Every summer there is an uprising in Kashmir. This is a clear pattern emerging in the past few years. I don't know why it is summer rather than winter, but there must be something. Perhaps it is the weather. This summer is seeing cycles of street violence yet again. But the question that begs answering is that, despite a clear pattern emerging there, why are our troops not prepared? Not with guns, not with soldiers, weapons, but with hi-resolution cameras? Why are the streets of towns most liable to violence not dotted with cameras? (Again, same holds good for places susceptible to terror recces and attacks.)

News reports originating from Kashmir would have us believe that it is the CRPF that is out killing people - civilians as they claim. The home secretary on the other hand, has said that anybody who breaks a curfew and indulges in violence is not a civilian by length of imagination. On the web there are file pictures of troops being harassed by the crowds, pelted stones on, bloodied in battle, being hit by many people while having just a lathi in their hands. Why are these pictures not in newspapers? Why are these videos not on breaking news on our ever fulminating channels? Why is there no big picture like site in India where we put up pictures? Why are these videos not on youtube? Why are the troops unable to counter this propaganda attack?

One standard argument has been that our troops are meant to fight real wars, but please, they have been in Kashmir for a few years now. And they have been called out in our cities many a time to counter mob violence. So, by now, they should have been experts in fighting mobs in cities and organizing guerilla attacks.

Heres how the CRPF could counter it - without guns. Given that breaking a curfew is illegal, can they not videoshoot it using hi-res cameras from their vans? And send it neatly packaged to the Chief Ministers office (apart from media houses)? How difficult is this today given the prevalence of easily available technology? Even a ten year old can upload videos on youtube today - why cant our troops? This will ensure 3 things. One, it will call the bluff of helpful "sources" who would like us to believe that the troops go berserk when all they are possibly doing is doing a thankless job and saving their lives while they are at it. It would also, take away the anonymity of these stone pelters - who go out pelt stones, collect their money and go back to pretending that they are peaceful normal guys like you and me who can type as well on a laptop as well as throw stones. When hi-res pictures are available, those who indulge in violence will have hell to pay, unlike the anonymity that they revel in today. Third, it will force the government to take action on these so called peaceful protesters.

And don't think this is a recipe for Kashmir only. It is not. Each place that the army or the police are called to battle mob violence, they will need cameras more than guns. And the sooner our troops learn to fight the propaganda war, the better it is for us. And enabling vehicles with camers and software is far less complicated and daunting than manufacturing the LCA or buying a howitzer or submarine or a vintage aircraft carrier.

The videos will kill two birds with one stone - it will keep the forces themselves in check while taking away the anonymity cloak the mobsters take shelter under.

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