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Media war in Kashmir


Saudi clerics and Pakistani news anchors are being beamed direct to Kashmiri homes, and are stoking the fires of ‘azadi’. Over 50 Saudi and Pakistani channels, including Zakir Naik’s banned Peace TV preaching Salafist Islam, and others indulging in anti India propaganda are running without necessary clearances via private cable networks in Kashmir. All this is happening under the nose of the PDP-BJP government, which even subscribes to these cable services in some of its offices and buildings.

Although satellite television service providers like Tata Sky, Airtel digital TV and Dish TV, are available in Kashmir, most people subscribe to private cable. A cable operator, who did not want to be named, said that there are over 50,000 private cable connections in Srinagar alone, and only because these broadcast Pakistani and Saudi channels.

Besides Naik’s Peace TV Urdu and English channels, private operators air Saudi and Pakistani channels like Saudi Sunnah, Saudi Quran, Al Arabia, Paigham, Hidayat, Noor, Madani, Sehar, Karbala, Hadi, Sehar, Ary QTV , Bethat, Ahlibat, Message, Falak, Geo News, Ary News, Dawn News, and many others, which cannot be accessed through satellite television service providers. None of these channels is permitted to air in the rest of the country by the I&B ministry .

“No cable operator, any where in the country, including in Jammu & Kashmir, can run any channel other than the ones approved by the Union I&B ministry. If it is not in the permitted list of channels on the ministry website, it is being illegally broadcast. Even if it is a free-to-air channel, a private cable operator must get approval from the ministry,” director of broadcasting, I&B ministry, Amit Katoch, told TOI. He asked TOI to send a written complaint so that the ministry could verify and take appropriate action.

Some of the Saudi channels broadcast the same kind of rigid, fundamentalist and patriarchal interpretations of Islam and Sharia that invited a government ban on Peace TV .Wahhabi clerics on these channels often sermonise that women should surrender before their husbands and obey their commands completely.

For example, a woman should not step out of the house without the permission of her husband, a cleric preached on Saudi Sunnah.

Most Pakistani news channels refer to the terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkare-Taiba and other groups as “martyrs” and counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir as “human rights violations”.

People in Kashmir have historically preferred Pakistani news and drama. “Love for all things Pakistan has a political history but love for Saudi religious channels developed in the ’90s,” said Muzaffar, a Srinagar businessman, whose employees are avid watchers of Saudi Sunnah channel.

Saudi channels are one of the biggest media of propounding the Salafist version of Islam in the Valley , Shahid, an Islamic scholar in Anantnag, said. “It is radicalising youth and adding fuel to the violent separatist movement that is being mobilised by invoking Islam. Wahhabism has stoked Islamist extremism and terrorism across the world.” However, a police officer said there was a wide range of religious channels, including those that preach moderate Islam.

Amjad Noor, the owner of Site Entertainment Network (SEN)-the biggest local cable network in Srinagar which has been running for the last 20 years and is subscribed by some government offices, said all Saudi and Pakistani channels were “free-to-air” and “legal” because Jammu & Kashmir has its “own constitution under Article 370 and a separate law, Ranbir Penal Code”.

“We have been beaming these channels ever since these were launched because Kashmir is a religious place. We also broadcast Hindu religious channels even though there are hardly any Hindus living in Kashmir. Also, these channels are running not just in Kashmir but in Jammu via other cable operators,” Noor said.

J&K home secretary R K Goyal was unavailable for a comment even after repeated phone calls to him. Another top government official in Kashmir admitted the channels were running illegally. “We have started the process to check how this is happening. Television is a problem here,” he said.

Last year, following massive violence in the valley, the J&K government, under the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995, had asked cable TV operators to stop broadcasting five Indian news satellite channels, KBC, Gulistan, Munsiff, JK Channel and Insaaf, claiming that their daily Kashmir exclusive programmes had provoked youth into mob violence and stone-pelting.

“These are not Saudi or Pakistani but Indian channels. Yet, they show mostly anti-India propaganda news in favour of separatists and against J&K police and the government,” a police officer said. Source: Times of India

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1 Comment

  1. India’s ill democracy is playing foul game to supress the voice of Kashmiris.

    Like

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