Prompted by intelligence inputs that some Pakistan-based TV channels and the Peace TV are fueling “jehadi” sentiment in restive Kashmir, the state government has decided to launch a major crackdown on the cable TV operators in the region, where stringent curbs on social media are already in place.
A top official confirmed to Inuth.com that the state government is issuing fresh diktats to the local cable TV operators to stop airing “all unauthorized channels”, including Islamic scholar Zakir Naik’s banned Peace TV, which is accused of preaching “Wahabi Islam.” While verbal orders have already been issued, formal directives would be served in a day or two, asking the service providers to mend ways or wind up.
But the question is how has the BJP-PDP coalition government not taken note of this serious breach?
Even though the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting doesn’t permit airing of Pakistani and several other Islamist channels in the country, officials said the cable TV operators in Kashmir, continue to air this “unauthorized lot.”
Explaining the point, a senior official said: “It’s not necessary that all objectionable channels are formally banned. But the logic is simple that unless I&B Ministry approves, no channel can be aired on the Indian soil. So, several Islamist channels get banned by virtue of this itself.”
The Home department headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has received inputs that around 60 “provocative channels” are being beamed direct to Kashmiri homes. Officials said Pakistani channels like Geo and Ary are already inciting violence in Kashmir.
“These TV channels address to Lashkar and Hizb terrorists as Mujahideen while the Indian jawans are labeled as oppressive and occupational forces. Apart from this, several provocative musical taranas are also being aired regularly. All this has contributed to the unrest in Kashmir.”
Though popular satellite television service providers like Tata Sky and Dish TV that strictly adhere to broadcasting norms do cater to Kashmir, majority of subscribers opt for local cable networks. Reasons? While the local network offers a variety of news channels catering exclusively to Kashmir, many of their channels also air the pirated version of latest Bollywood movies. “In a place like Kashmir where cinemas are shut for decades, the variety of movies including latest ones available on local cable tempt you to prefer for these services,” explains an official.
Interestingly the civil and police administration offers government advertisements to such cable channels that are accused of resorting to piracy and violation of other norms.
The cable operators, on the other hand, have a plea. They say why doesn’t government issue clear-cut list of channels that have to be blocked? “The orders are never clear. Why are we not openly asked to ban Peace TV or Geo or whatever?”
But this is where the problem arises. Officials say: “We cannot give in writing the names of religious channels that are to be banned as it is feared to be communally exploited by some fringe elements.” But now the government has decided to ask the cable operators to air only those channels that are permitted on the official website of the Information and Broadcasting ministry website. “By virtue of such orders, we’ll get rid of all the unwanted content including Peace TV.”
On April 24, the state government banned as many as 22 social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter, pleading that such platforms were inciting violence. In a bid to intensify the crackdown, several proxy and VPN services used to defy the curbs have also been banned.