In a bid to crack down on anti-India propaganda in Kashmir, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has asked cable operators in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir not to air any TV channel from Iran, Turkey and Malaysia. A Joint Secretary in the Ministry, Vikram Sahay had a meeting with the cable operators at the Information Department office in Srinagar.
During the meeting with the cable operators, the official read out the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 and also asked the cable operators in the Union Territory to adhere to the regulations of the law. As per an Outlook report, Sahay told the cable operators that they were violating the law by airing channels from ‘Muslim’ countries, especially Iran, Turkey and Malaysia. The cable operators reportedly told the official that Sehar TV, a religious channel of Iran and a Saudi TV channel, were being aired in the Union Territory. The official has made it clear that the said channels shouldn’t be aired in Jammu & Kashmir.
According to Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials, several religious channels from the countries of Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Pakistan are being telecast in Kashmir through the local cable operators. This is why the Ministry wants to bring an end to such unauthorised telecast of TV channels in Kashmir. The Union Ministry has issued an advisory, stating, “It has come to the notice of this Ministry that some private channels which are not permitted by this Ministry are being transmitted by some cable operators on their networks. This is a clear violation of the sub-rules 6(6) under Cable TV Rules under Programme code and needs to be acted upon immediately.” The advisory, signed by Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Sahay also warned cable TV operators in the region that punitive action, including withdrawal of license/permission and confiscation of equipment could be taken if they violate the rules.
It is pertinent to mention here that this is not the first time that the government has cracked down on unauthorised channels which can potentially propagate anti-India sentiment. In the month of July last year, the Jammu & Kashmir government had instructed local cable operators to shut down 30 non-permitted satellite channels. The 30 TV channels which were banned for their anti-India propaganda included Pakistani channels GEO, ARY, QTV, and Zakir Naik’s controversial, Peace TV. The order prohibiting the transmission of non-permitted TV channels had stated, “It has become necessary and expedient in the larger interest of public and maintenance of peace and tranquility to prohibit (you) from transmitting non-permitted TV channels (which are not permitted by the Union ministry of information and broadcasting).”
The Modi government has therefore consistently made it clear that it is not going to tolerate anti-India and pro-separatist propaganda in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. It must be noted that Iran, Turkey and Malaysia had come out issuing objectionable statements after India abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, effectively interfering in India’s internal affairs. The Turkish President Erdogan, the wannabe Khalifa had made some highly objectionable remarks about India’s August 5 Kashmir move during his UNGA speech. Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad had also made highly objectionable remarks about Kashmir at the UNGA session earlier this year. He had said, “Now, despite the UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir, the country has been invaded and occupied.”
Iran which traditionally shares good relations with India, has also taken an anti-India stance when it comes to Kashmir. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali had tweeted, “We’re concerned about Muslims’ situation in #Kashmir. We have good relations with India, but we expect the Indian government to adopt a just policy towards the noble people of Kashmir and prevent the oppression & bullying of Muslims in this region.”
Such narrative can incite communal sentiment in the Union Territory which can be detrimental to the peace and tranquility in the region.
Modi government has realised how non-permitted TV channels operating from Muslim countries that are known to have taken a pro-separatist stance as far as Kashmir is concerned, can try to incite anti-India propaganda within Kashmir and can also bolster Islamic extremism in the valley, which is the root cause of the entire issue. In the garb of airing religious programmes and news devates, these channels can easily engage in anti-India propaganda within the valley. In today’s information age, news channels, media outlets and biased TV channels can spread misinformation at a brisk pace. In such circumstances, it is imperative for the government to block such suspicious channels. With this step, Modi government has reiterated its commitment to maintain peace and tranquility in the Valley and to crack down on elements which can potentially endanger India’s security situation by creating a law and order problem in the Union Territory.