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J&K operators in a quandary, claim banned channels have GEC & all-religion content

MUMBAI: The Indian Government’s directive to the Jammu and Kashmir Government to stop the transmission of 34 television channels from Muslim countries including Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia has put the cable operators in a quandary. Several foreign channels went off air in most parts of the Valley on Sunday after the Indian government order.

Most of these channels broadcast programmes about sports, religion and lifestyle and none incites violence, Kashmir Cable Operators Association stated. The ban comes around a month after the state blocked social media web sites throughout the Valley.

The Indian government had asked the J&K administration to take stern action against private cable operators airing illegal Pakistani and Saudi Arabian channels. Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu has reportedly directed the J&K government to submit a report at the earliest. www.indiantelevision.com could not speak to the director (BP& L) in the ministry on the concrete plan of action in spite of several attempts.

Operators reportedly broadcast around 34 channels illegally such as Peace TV, Ary QTV, Saudi Sunnah, Karbala, Saudi Quran, Al Arabia, Paigham, Hidayat, Sehar, Hadi TV, Sehar, Noor, Madani, Bethat, Ahlibat, Falak, Dawn News, Geo News, Ary News, TV One, ARY Masala, PTV Sports, A TV, Abb Tak News, 92 News, Duniya News, Waseb TV, Samaa News and Express News.

According to the operators, they could neither defy the ban order nor could they afford to stop telecasting channels which are highly popular among the masses in the Valley. Kashmir Cable Association stated that there were around 300 channels in the Valley which include 22 channels for the Sikh community, 15 for Hindu and 25 Islamic.

The Cable Operators Association stated that it has decided to defy the order as their business heavily depends on these channels. Asked about the consequence, it stated that they were prepared if the authorities seize their equipment and close down their business.

Channels such as ARY Musik telecasts Sufi music, ARY Zauq or Ham Masala are cooking channels from Pakistan while Saudi 1 airs live feed from Haram Sharif in Makkah 24x7 as does Karbala TV from the shrine of Imam Hussain, a TV viewer said.

An order issued by the principal secretary, home department, R K Goyal, to all the deputy magistrates (deputy commissioners) of the state said. "It needs being noted that transmission of non-permitted TV channels apart from attracting the violation (of the law), has the potential to encourage or incite violence and create law and order disturbances in the Kashmir Valley.”

Some cable operators alleged that the Delhi-based communal media, motivated by anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan politics of Hindutva, is behind the closure of Pakistani and religious channels in the territory. The operators said that they were showing all the religious channels belonging to every faith, which includes Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and others.

Meanwhile, prominent Islamic scholars on Monday expressed serious concern over the ban, saying the curbs on religious teachings would have repercussions. They said that channels such as Saudi Al-Quran and Saudi Sunnah only telecast Islamic teachings.

While Delhi has banned the channels, operators in Kashmir cite the Ranbir Penal Code, a separate law in Kashmir, according to which the ban is not applicable.

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