Srinagar: At a time when people in Kashmir were looking forward to the live broadcast of the Hajj from Mecca, the government’s ban on Islamic Channels has hurt their religious feelings as well as their daily routines.
“I was looking for the Islamic channels since yesterday morning, but I could not find a single one. When I asked the kids about it, they said that the Islamic channels have been banned,” said 70-year-old Fatima Begum, who used to listen to naats and lectures during the day.
“Why has the government banned them? They are banning everything related to our religion and identity,” she said.
Fatima said that if anything had to be banned, it should have been the bullets and pellets that are killing and maiming little kids.
Many people are still searching for these channels, unaware of the ban.
“From day one to the last day of Hajj, I watched all the proceedings of the pilgrimage. More importantly, I never missed the day when they (Saudi authorities) changed the Gilaf of Kaba Shareef. But from the last two days I have not seen any broadcast. When I contacted my cable operator, he said all such channels had been banned,” said Ghulam Muhammad, a resident of Srinagar.
He added, “The authorities here are torturing us one way or the other.”
Hapless cable operators are caught between the government directive and strong public demand for these channels.
“This ban has put us in a very bad situation” said Amjad Noor, President of the Cable Operators Association. When asked on what grounds the channels had been banned, he replied, “The only reasoning we have been given by the authorities is that these channels don’t have downlink permission in India. The fact, however, is that these channels are being presently aired in Kerala and Hyderabad.”
Noor said that claims of these channels propagating religious propaganda from Pakistan to foment trouble in Kashmir are not the reality. “How is it possible that Saudi-based channels such as Saudi Sunnah, Saudi Al-Quran and Iran-based Karbala TV, which just telecast religion-specific content, or a cooking channel popular among women will incite violence?” Noor asked.
The J&K Home Department has warned cable operators of action if they do not block more than 30 “unpermitted” channels, including many aired from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In an order issued Wednesday by the Additional District Magistrate Srinagar, cable operators were directed to immediately stop telecasting or transmitting such channels.
Cable operator Imran Ahmad rues, “This is the only means of my livelihood. If the authorities do not revoke the ban, it will ruin my business. People of Kashmir like to watch these channels especially in the holy months of Zil Hajj and Ramadan. I am afraid that people will stop subscribing to Cable TV as these channels were the very reason they did not opt for DTH (Direct-To-Home satellite TV).”
Another cable operator, Bashir Ahmad, said, “I have 500 subscribers, 70% of whom watch Islamic channels. If the authorities continue with this ban, then surely my customers will cancel their subscription.”
The channels that have been banned in Kashmir are: Peace TV English, Peace TV Urdu, 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, 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.