Local Kashmiri artists staged a street protest in Srinagar on Monday against what they called extinction of Kashmiri programmes from Doordarshan (DD) Kashir channel. They included private producers, directors, actors, singers and other performers associated with the trade. They alleged that Kashmiri language programmes have drastically been curtailed on the Kashir channel, and Hindi feature films are being run in their place on the channel. They described it as a “deliberate onslaught” by the Doordarshan authorities on Kashmiri culture and language. “It is straightway a cultural aggression”, alleged the protestors. “They (authorities) want to change the cultural and social ethos of Kashmir by imposing an alien culture”, the artists said and pledged that they would resist these attempts.
Though Doordarshan is not the first choice of the viewers in presence of dozens of other private channels, still Kashir channel enjoyed a considerable viewership in Kashmir. It was mainly due to the regional character of the channel. The DD Kashir used to mount programmes expressly on the culture, heritage, art, history and customs of the state. This had accorded the channel a distinctive character that would influence and attract the viewers. The channel was launched during turbulent days of late 90s as a counter to Pakistani propaganda on Kashmir but given the sensitivity and psyche of the Kashmir viewers only a small time slot was fixed for the propaganda. Almost 80% of the time slot would cover the cultural and social issues and aspects of the state. With the privatization of programmes by Doordarshan, hundreds of artists, freelance and casual programmers and performers got associated with Kashir channel. It became their bread and butter. However, over past some years Doordarshan authorities began to curtail the programme production for the channel.
The out-sourcing of programmes has completely been stopped, and in-house too is just in name only. Today, the time slot for Kashmiri language programmes is just about an hour. For the rest of the time, the channel is linked to national network where Hindi feature films are fed to the viewers for all the time. This has become a major source of money-making for the people in power in Doordarshan. It is common knowledge in media circles that the feature films are run against consideration by the concerned authorities. In the past dozens of Doordarshan officials have been found involved in corruption and arrested and jailed for months and years. It is sad commentary on the system working in Doordarshan that despite spending hundreds rather thousands of crores of rupees, the Srinagar sister of Doordarshan has not developed in to credible and worthy organization. In the Television network of India, Srinagar Doordarshan is only third (after Delhi and Mumbai) set up by the government of India in 1973. All other kendras including Lucknow, Jalandhar, Jaipur, Banglore, Hyderabad, Kolkatta and Madras, which are known for quality programmes and have made an impression among TV audience of India, came up much later. All these kendras have grown largely, both, in terms of content and viewer-ship. Deeming Star Plus, Zee TV, Soni, SAB and other international channels as their competitors may well explain their extra ordinary growth. Srinagar Kendra is nowhere in the recognition.
It is yet to carve out a place in the TV network of India. The practice corruption still runs supreme in the Kendra. It has dominated the minds like lust and every individual hankers after it. One can easily conclude that Kashir channel or Doordarshan Srinagar is used as political tool besides a means of corruption by the people in the seat of power. It is sad that for New Delhi politics is the only measuring rod in Kashmir. Success and politics often run parallel. And parallel lines never meet.