News and iron curtains

Blocking of the communication channels is not a new phenomenon

ZGM
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jul 21 2018 10:32PM | Updated Date: Jul 21 2018 10:32PM
News and iron curtainsRepresentational Pic

Someone has said that “I'd trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday.” He has perhaps said so for the magical powers of nostalgia; enabling one to rediscover the dreams in our eyes and songs on our lips; we grew up with.  Of course, it removes ‘rough edges from the good old days,’ but sometimes like a search engine, the mind makes a connection with the bitter past that one does not want to remember but  it still haunts like Banquo’s ghost. 

Few days back, a proclamation issued by the administration, stopping cable television operators from airing thirty channels based in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran broadcasting  programs on religion and news took me straightaway down the memory lane and made me remember how even during comparatively peace times the popularity of the PTV in the state had caused alarm bells ringing in the New Delhi newspapers and the officialdom. The ascendance of “Pakistan’s Cultural Invasion in Kashmir” was the outcry. One important Calcutta based newsmagazines had asked me also to do a story on the popularity of the subject.  To get a feel for the situation as obtained during those days, it would be of interest to reproduce the scene as captured in the story that I had filled:

“Amidst, the picturesque landscape of Srinagar, a new feature is rapidly gaining prominence. A rash of television antenna adorns rooftops all over Kashmir, but the strange thing is that ninety percent TV viewers have abandoned Srinagar Doordarshan in favor of Pakistani television centers. All sorts of devices such as boosters are being used in order to get clear reception from TV centers across the border, with the result Pakistani TV stars are becoming very popular in the State. Two Pakistani TV personalities who have the largest fan following in the state are Khushbakht Shuja compere of the program “Meena Bazar” and Tariq Aziz who presents “Neelam Ghar.”  

The reason for the popularity was the drama serials telecast by the station. It had attracted largest viewership not in Kashmir but in Jammu also. For their social messages, the serials of the seventies and the eighties like Khuda ki Basti,  Ankahi,  Dhoop Kinarey, Tanhaiyan, and Parchaiyan had become part of Kashmir’s cultural milieu. Many video libraries in the main commercial areas of the city having  rich collections of the serials and dramas did roaring business. Those of the youth, interested in movies like Zarqa   about Palestinian liberation movement against Israel could be counted on fingertips. 

In 1990 when the state was brought under New Delhi’s rule, and Jagmohan was appointed as the governor of the state viewing of the PTV was forbidden. At many places, men in uniform asked the people to pull down the twenty feet antennas from their rooftops and remove the boosters. Those days, defiance was the rule in every land and street. The deafening echoes of the beating of tin roofs after the dusk was an expression of non-cooperation and writ of the government had melted into thin air. In this scenario of resistance, the majority of people did not remove the television antennas and boosters and continued to watch the PTV. Ultimately, the government jammed the PTV signals. 

Interestingly, the PTV was not as important a source of news as word of mouth.  Word of mouth on proverbial wings of a hawk did fly in the wind, hailstorm, and snow to the remotest part of the valley and kept people abreast about the goings-on in curfew-bound cities and towns. Some journalists working for international wire services and broadcasting organizations discharged their professional obligations and filled reports   at the risk of their lives. Despite, the iron curtains in place, the news reached to people- in and outside the state. 

The blocking of the communication channels to Kashmir has not been a new phenomenon, it, in fact, has been a part of the Nehru doctrine on Kashmir. In this column, I wrote sometime back that how in 1948 Nehru   engaged some progressive writers for dissuading people from their cherished goal, instilling his beliefs in them by blocking all outside communication channels in the state.  He appointed, known Urdu writer Rajinder Singh Bedi as Director Radio Kashmir, Jammu for propagating the ideology of the State. People were coerced to glue their ears to community Radio Sets airing the ‘Dominant Discourse.’   

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