Coverage of the Surgical Strike on Television News in India

Sushmita Pandit, Saayan Chattopadhyay
  • Journalism Practice, November 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2017.1397529

Coverage of the Surgical Strike on Television News in India

What is it about?

On 29 September 2016, the Indian army conducted a surgical strike along the India–Pakistan border. The mainstream news media in India followed the event with assertive nationalistic rhetoric. What was supposed to be a covert military operation against terrorism became morphed into political rhetoric aggravated by the unwarranted jingoism of television news channels and social media. The coverage of the strike on television news is typically characterized by a confluence of militant nationalist discourses, and the ideologically imbued labeling of specific communities. Within this context, drawing from the close reading of the coverage, this article analyses how Indian television news sustains the construction of a fictive “we”, conflated with the government policies and military strategies, and speaks for a supposedly homogeneous national consensus that also consciously obscures the dissent through minority voices. The article emphasizes the relationship between communities, formal politics, and the supposedly non-political spaces and practices of news media in India.

Why is it important?

This article moves beyond a narrow focus on narrative structures of news media texts, and considers their links with the sociopolitical context as well as with particular ideological attitudes towards reporting events. How does television news in India explicitly define the fictive ‘we’ as a national we? In the time of national crisis, in what way mainstream Indian news anchors adopt a militant, nationalist stance and shape their narratives focusing on the conflict between “us” and “them”, between “our nation” and its enemies? Drawing examples from popular news programs broadcast on Indian television, this paper aims to question, whether such popular reporting practices primarily provide the site for the formation of particular identity categories rather than rational public debate? By engaging with these questions, the article emphasizes the need for paying attention not only to ideological formation of specific ethno-religious communities but also to the relationship between formal politics and the supposedly non-political spaces and practices of news media in India. the relevance of this study remains in its aims to fill the gap in examinations of nationalist discourse in journalistic genres, particularly in non-western, developing nations like India.


Saayan Chattopadhyay
Baruipur College

It is important to consider the coverage of India- Pakistan conflict in popular news television since cultural politics is as important as the supposed “real” politics and the separation between the political from the cultural or the social is precarious.

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The following have contributed to this page: Saayan Chattopadhyay