Local cable operators as well as the subscribers feel that the government by banning 30 private channels, they are trying to ‘control what Kashmiris watch’.
This is not the first time when channels “the people here could relate to” were banned. While the authorities reason it “to maintain peace and tranquillity”, the decision has disrupted many peaceful minds of the valley.
“It’s not about if we have the option to watch programmes on internet. It’s also not about the choice to switch to other channels. It’s about how the Indian government is controlling what we watch. It’s about the way they chain not only our bodies but also our minds,” said a student of the University of Kashmir.
He added, “Why ban all those channels to which we (majority) relates to?”
Fareeda Bano, a resident from Batmaloo says that she has been watching ARY Zindagi and QTV for years now. She also likes to watch the live telecasts of Hajj on channels based in Saudi Arabia. With the ban, she is left with no option than to switch to news channels which she says only depress her.
“While doing the chores I keep the television on. I watch Islamic channels or ARY Zindagi. I don’t understand a word when I watch live Hajj telecasts. I don’t understand how these channels incite violence. This is just illogical. I never like to watch the news. There are killings, rapes, young boys and kids dying. They are forcing us to watch all that. How is that going to give me peace?” she asks.
Like Fareeda, many others watching the banned channels including: Peace TV (Urdu and English), ARY QTV, Madni Channel, Noor TV, Hadi TV, Paigam, Hidayat, Saudi Al-Sunnah Al-Nabawiyah, Saudi-Al-Quran Al-Karim, Sehar, Karbala TV, Ahli-Biat TV, Message TV, Hum TV, ARY Digital Asia, Hum Sitaray, ARY Zindagi, PTV Sports, ARY Musik, TV One, ARY Masala, ARY Zauq, A TV, Geo News, ARY News Asia, Abb Takk News, Waseb TV, 92 News, Duniya News, Samna News, Geo Tez, Express-News and ARY News are of the opinion that banning these channels had nothing to do with the peace in the valley.
This is not for the first time that the channels have been banned. During the 2010 uprising, the government, then led by Omar Abdullah, banned local cable channels from airing news and current affairs programmes in Kashmir.
“We are reminded of the times when SEN Channel or channels like Mauj Kasheer would run. They would telecast new movies or Kashmiri programmes and news. In 2010 Ragda Ragda, the local cable channels were the only sources of true information to locals. I remember the time when a local newsreader had said that the cops were outside the studio and they were still bringing news to us, amid all the fears,” says another local, on condition of anonymity.
“The channels were banned then and the news about the killings would be dumped by the national media. This time, they are not even producing news. I don’t understand the logic behind this move. For now, I only smell occupation in the air and nothing else,” the local added.
In May 2017, during Mehbooba Mufti’s tenure, the state home department had asked all deputy commissioners to stop the transmission of 34 TV channels, including those from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, citing their potential to “incite violence and create law and order situation”.
At present, the cable operators are left with no option but to stop transmitting the said channels as the order passed reads,“…In exercise of powers conferred by section 19 of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, you are hereby directed to immediately stop telecasting/transmitting not permitted TV channels/banned private satellite channels within period of three days for which a notarized affidavit be furnished to this office, failing which action as contemplating under the provisions of the act will be taken against you.”
Speaking to Free Press Kashmir, a local cable operator said, “People watch our channels despite having other options. They like to watch religious programmes which in no way harm the peace here. They like to watch Pakistani channels or channels from Saudi Arabia because they can connect to their Islamic sentiments and culture. Denying them this right is totally wrong.”
“We don’t know why they banned it. Earlier they had banned only Pakistani channels which made sense given the state of Indo-Pak relations. It has an impact on us. We are all Muslims. Our customers ask us to run Islamic channels. From the business point of view, I am a small operator. I have around 400 customers and there must be around hundreds more like me,” he further said.
He also informed that the cable operators receive signal from SEN channel, a private television network.
“SEN is dealing with it, representing us. We submit the fees to them and they facilitate the signal. They had planned a meet regarding this issue. We don’t know what the outcome so far has been ,” he said adding, “I reckon Jio dish is going to be introduced here and that may also be the reason to increase Jio’s customer base.”
Meanwhile, Resistance leadership in Kashmir is also aghast over the ban. In a statement issued by Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, it is mentioned that “the real purpose of the ban is to promote Zafrani dogma and pave way for Hindu Rashtra.”
“Such tactics of oppression reflect an authoritarian mindset and it is highly deplorable that even channels specified for religious preaching and teachings were removed from the air,” read the statement issued yesterday.