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Scrutiny
  
Why isn’t India banning National Geographic?
In Jan 2010, NatGeo was warned by the I&B ministry for deliberately exhibiting wrong maps of India and was threatened with stringent action if non-compliance was continued. Let off then, NatGeo continues its misrepresentation! What does the government plan to do now?
16/09/2010

If the government is so serious about ensuring that the national viewpoint of Indian geography does not get distorted, then the government should immediately enforce the maximal allowable punishment on the entities that continue to knowingly publicise clearly illegal maps and images representing flawed Indian boundaries. The NatGeo example is just one part of the story; CNN, BBC, Lonely Planet, CIA, US State Department and Wikipedia make up the other ignominious bunch that have no qualms about distorting Indian boundaries in maps that are freely available in India.

If the government is really serious about putting an end to this long continuing issue, we say ban the perpetrators and take the maximum allowable action for such clear and deliberate misrepresentation. The Indian government doesn’t need to look far to understand which Indian act these agencies are violating. Well, that’s India’s Independence Act, passed on July 1, 1947, that defined the sovereign and indisputable boundaries of India!

Yes, India has had wars with Pakistan and China. And yes, we have won some and lost some, in the matter of speaking. Irrespective of that, India has never forsaken its sovereign – and one should mention perfectly legitimate – rights over territories that are illegally occupied by Pakistan and China. Ironically, the Pakistani Constitution even today doesn’t recognize the PoK as part of Pakistan while India symbolically has 25 assembly seats reserved in the J&K assembly representing PoK legislators. Expectably, these 25 seats have remained vacant for a long time. And with respect to our border dispute with China, even in 1954 when the then Indian Prime Minister Nehru clarified the distinct Indian border to China, the then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai had emphatically stated that China had no claims over Indian controlled territory (although official Chinese maps even at that time showed 120,000 square kilometres of Indian territory as Chinese; later China claimed even the Aksai Chin range post the 1962 Sino-Indo war).

In other words, as per law, no map representing India should show the Indian boundaries any different from what is represented by the official Indian government map through the Survey of India (which shows the complete north-east areas and the state of J&K as parts of India, resulting in India even sharing a border with Afghanistan, at least on paper).

Apparently those rules don’t apply to NatGeo, even post the strictest of warnings by the Indian government. In January 2010, after NatGeo had aired a wrong Indian map in a programme covering population density of rhinos, the I&B Ministry passed an official covenant mentioning, “National Geographic Channel has violated Rule 6 (1)(h) of the Programme Code. Strict compliance to this direction has to be ensured by the National Geographic Channel. Any further violation may entail stringent action.” The July 2010 issue of National Geographic, in a story titled Pakistan’s Heartland Under Threat carries a map of India that clearly misrepresents Indian boundaries. The August 2010 National Geographic issue repeats the mistake, this time in a story called Grassland Kingdom, covering the Kaziranga National Park (see maps, previous page). Both these issues are being freely sold within Indian boundaries.
But to pick on National Geographic singularly would be wrong, as many other notable agencies mirror this behaviour – including, as mentioned before, CNN, BBC, Lonely Planet, Wikipedia, Google and the quite infamous Central Intelligence Agency. All of these agencies currently carry Indian maps on their websites that are rampant equivocations of reality, yet are freely available from within Indian boundaries.

While the very first result of Google’s image search (for a keyword search of “India map”) gives a wrong map of India, CIA’s World Factbook Report has shown northern Kashmir as being cut off from India and being a part of Pakistan and China. Even the US Department of State endorses a map quite similar to the CIA map on their official India advisory. In the advisory, the Department mentions flagrantly, “The US considers all of the former princely state of Kashmir to be disputed territory.” CNN endorses this viewpoint and has gone a step ahead to term the entire J&K as “disputed.”

One has to realise that these are leading agencies of the world (for example, National Geographic is the world’s largest read magazine published in 32 languages with a mammoth monthly readership of over fifty million; Lonely Planet is the world’s largest travel guide book; Wikipedia is the world’s most referred encyclopaedia; Google the most used search engine; CNN/BBC the largest global media channels) and continued misrepresentation of the Indian map in these forums can only lead to global perception changing negatively against India. The nation necessarily needs to take quick and extreme steps to arrest this situation.

A call for action has to now come directly from the Prime Minister’s office that raises the diplomatic ire to the highest levels possible to enforce immediate and instant change. If compliance is still absent from these agencies, then the Indian government should ban these media/information/government agencies and immediately block access to their channels, both on and off the web.

On the other hand, if the government believes that such a continued misrepresentation by global agencies – some like Google and NatGeo which have already been warned – is not of grave concern, then it should call a spade a spade, tell the Indian public that what is lost, is lost forever... and label itself the most unpatriotic government in the history of independent India!

By:- Akram Hoque
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