decades now, Kashmiri Muslims have held the Government of India responsible for
all their woes. This is because the Government of India time and again allowed the
ruling National Conference to rig elections and run a corrupt, uncaring and
authoritarian regime in Jammu and Kashmir. Whenever Kashmiris rose in protest
against subversion of their democratic rights by their State Government, the
National Conference managed to convince the Central Government that it was an
anti-India upsurge. This suits corrupt and irresponsible politicians and
bureaucrats of J&K. The Central Government joined hands with the State
Government to crush such protest movements through the armed might of the
almost every protest against the misdoings of the National Conference turned
into anti-India protest. Even when there is a power failure people start
shouting anti-India slogans, though the fault lies with the local power supply
station. The National Conference added fuel to this fire and continually fanned
anti-India sentiment by raising the flag of plebiscite and the demand for
“autonomy” from the Central Government. In recent years, Kashmiri Muslims began
to see through this game but since they almost never got sympathetic hearing
from either the Congress led Government at the Centre or the BJP, they stayed
stuck with their hostility towards “India” which in effect means anger and
frustration with the Central Government. But Minister Kapil Sibal helped break
this vicious cycle by responding with speed and determination to the grievances
of two important groups of Kashmiris.
May 2012, the Private Colleges Association of Kashmir approached Manushi for
help in communicating to Union Minister for Communications & Information Technology (now also Law & Justice) Kapil Sibal who was the then HRD Minister how the State
Government was out to crush and kill private colleges through its arbitrary and
hostile policies. Minister Sibal not only assured them of all help but actually
flew to Kashmir with me at the invitation of the Private
Colleges Association to hear their grievances. (For a full report read Love
Us or Leave Us by Wahid -ur Rehman). This issue will take time to sort out and Mr Sibal is doing
all he can to help them even though he is not the HRD Minister any more.
the meantime, in the second week of March this year, the Cable operators of
Kashmir approached Manushi with a horrific account of how National Conference
leaders were using criminal means to destroy these small operators in order to
acquire total monopoly over the media networks in J&K.
from the monetary implications of this monopoly, this would help National
Conference to have total control of news coverage so that any criticism of its
policies or high handed actions could easily be blocked.
following representation dated March 12, 2013 submitted to Minister Sibal
provides a glimpse of the patently illegal acts of the J&K Government in wrecking the livelihoods of cable operators in the state.
Sub: Representation on behalf of SITE
Entertainment Network, cable operators of Srinagar Kashmir with regard to systematic
assaults by the State Government of J&K on our fundamental right to
livelihood, right to pursue occupations and vocations of our choice, right to
liberty and life without fear.
We are making an
urgent appeal to you because the state government is out to crush the private
cable operators out of existence through patently illegal and unconstitutional
means. The Government of India keeps telling the world and reminding Kashmiri
people that Kashmir is an integral part of India but when we are deprived of
our fundamental rights promised by the Constitution of India by our own state
government, no one in the Central Government or national media pays the
slightest attention to our grievances and our cries for help.
We have come to you
in great hope because you are one of the very few central ministers who freely
interacted with thousands of youth in the Valley who had gathered to listen to
you with enthusiasm. You engaged with them without much security paraphernalia.
You also told us that Kashmiris are very close to your heart and you are always
there to redress their genuine grievances.
We want to, in
particular, remind you of your promise made on 23rd October 2012 in
Pulwama that since the youth of Kashmir yearn for peace in the Valley, you would be glad to restore all the means of
communication denied to them from SMS to fast speed internet services. You
assured us that as Minister of Communication and IT you will do your best to play
a positive role in connecting Kashmiri youth to the rest of India and removing
all the hurdles that alienate them from India. You added that since 21 century
is an information age, you would like to see Kashmir get connected to people
across the world and transform itself from an isolated to a high-tech region.
We, the cable
service operators of Kashmir have served the cause of communication,
entertainment in Kashmir Valley under very trying circumstances, including at
the height of militancy. We played a vital role in linking the Valley to the rest
of India via cable services and transmission. This played a major role in giving
hope to the people of Kashmir that they too can be partners in a new resurgent
India. It is not a coincidence that when the first young Qazi from Kashmir won
the Indian Idol award on Sony TV, the entire Valley celebrated the occasion.
The private cable
operators have engaged the youth, given them technical training and provided job
opportunities to thousands of unemployed youth. Inspite of threats by militants
to this venture, cable operators have done their best to make Kashmir a part of
the digital age and reduce the isolation of common Kashmiris to national and
international developments. The cable operators have paid a heavy price to keep
alive and sustain this venture .Many of our operators were attacked and even
lost their lives while rescuing and sustaining cable services. A major
challenge was the increasing religious intolerance and attacks by hardliner
groups against the cable service because they blamed us for spreading “immodesty
|Chief Minister Omar Abdullah with Devinder Singh Rana, National Conference Provincial Chief Jammu
Till about eight years ago, Kashmir valley’s cable operators had direct
dealings with companies like Zee, Star, Sony. Our troubles started when Mr Devinder
Singh Rana and Mr Subhash Chowdhry, close associates of Chief Minister Omar
Abdullah who already had a monopoly over Jammu region began spreading their
tentacles in the Valley. They joined hands and floated a joint venture named ‘Take
One J K Media’. As they had secured distributorship of various companies, they
began to use their political clout to pressure the 26 odd cable operators and
nearly 600 sub-operators of the Valley to become their “dealers” and play their
channels. We consented under pressure even though it meant financial losses for
us since they charge us not only for paid channels but also for free channels.
However, we realised soon that their game plan was not limited to economic
monopoly but also political monopoly for which they use sinister ways,
including the coercive might of the state machinery against us.
For example, when we contacted some of the national channels, they
willingly agreed to give us direct dealership. However, in order to obstruct
the direct dealing ‘Take One JK Media’ began to recall our old set-top boxes
under the false pretext that they had some technical flaws. In return they gave
us new set-top boxes which were connected to their user ID. In June 2012, the
telecasts of Zee, Sony etc were blocked from our cable networks without any
notice to us. When we contacted their head offices in Delhi, they informed us
that the Take One JK Media had blocked the through their set-top boxes because
they had cancelled our user Ids and routed all channels through their user ID
in order to deny us direct access. This is how without knowledge, they snapped
our direct business links with companies in Delhi.
We had approached ‘MediaPro’
directly and met Mr. Pankaj Satlana, the regional head who again
tried to push us to work with JK media. When we refused to be bullied, he stopped
meeting us altogether. The country head Mr. Hemant Sandhu even proposed us
for separate distribution in Kashmir province which we are ready to
undertake. But since August 2012 despite several attempts to talk to executives
at Delhi office we have been denied appointments.
We approached the
distributor JK/Take One Network backed by Devinder Singh Rana and Subhash Chowdhry
and they bluntly told us that we don't exist anymore as the Decoders are
no more in our name. After we resisted, he started deactivating our services/ packages and threatened us
by saying that instead of Rs.3.70 lac (what we were paying for
Star India and Zee Turner) we have to pay Rs.7.50 lac per month to our distributor or
else we will be totally shut down.
DSP Farooq Zargar (CID), a close friend of Subhash Chowdhry has
positioned renegade goondas in our areas who have been assigned the task of
laying down cables of his monopoly network and illegally uproot ours. The
police do not entertain our complaints saying they are under political pressure.
Many of our operators have been beaten up by these criminal elements. Instead
of registering our complaints, the police have filed repeated trumped up F.I.Rs
against our men and locked them up in jail. We got them released on bail with
Even though all these companies were willing to give us new set-top
boxes as direct dealers for the Valley, they have been pressured by Devinder
Singh Rana and Subhash Chowdhry not to do so because they want monopoly control
over the state and wipe out small entrepreneurs with their own network of
politically pliant dealers. This is an old tried and tested game of the
National Conference. They manipulate recruitment in government jobs by
inducting only loyal party members into government, systematically overlooking
merit. Similarly, they do their best to crush businessmen, whether in the
education sector, or industry or print media who are not pliant enough to give
them whatever bribes and pay offs they demand. But extorting money is not their
only game. They are as obsessed with political control.
For example, the day Times Now news
channel carried a news story critical of the state government, they blocked Times Now from the state. They did the
same with ETV when it carried news which exposed JK government misdoings. They
use the state police to threaten and arrest those who carry any news
questioning the state government policy.
It is with a view
to acquiring total political monopoly over local media that the current regime
is determined to snuff out our right to employment and business entitlements
through the use of police and other coercive measures. Under the guidance of their
political bosses, the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar has illegally and unconstitutionally
sealed the office of our network rendering thousands of youth unemployed. We
are all in a state of limbo.
|Cable operators protest against repressive policies of the State Government in Kashmir
Hundreds of cable operators
staged protest demonstration against these illegal repressive acts. We were
forced to take to streets and some of our operators even went to the extent of
attempting self-immolation during the protest in Srinagar on Feb, 26
2013. But the state government remained unmoved. Sadly, even the national
media failed to take notice of our protests.
government policy of clamp down on private cable operators is aimed at achieving
corporate monopoly over cable networks with a view to using it in the coming
elections to block all independent news coverage of electoral malpractices
which alone can help NC win elections.
Mr Devinder Singh
Rana, who is well known to be the right hand man of CM Omar Abdullah has gone
to the extent of labelling us as “anti-national” elements in order to mask his
own illegal actions. History is witness to the fact that we have done our best
to promote national integration at great personal risk and cost. During the
worst of times, we kept people of Kashmir connected to the social, cultural,
political and economic developments in the rest of India. But the NC government
does not want peace and harmony in the state. Disturbed conditions suit them
because this way they can convince the Central Government that their
authoritarian and repressive measures are necessary to keep Kashmiri people
under control. They run a police state in order to silence all criticism of
their uncontrolled corruption and criminal acts.
This kind of
politics may suit the partisan interests of National Conference and the
Abdullah Dynasty but it does not suit the interests of Kashmir. It alienates
Kashmiri people and turns them against India because they are led to believe
that all such oppressive measures against them are adopted at the behest of the
Central government. The silence of Central Government and national media against
the misrule of Conference is invariably interpreted as a sign of its complicity
in repression of Kashmiri people. This game needs to be halted. Only someone
like you who understands our anguish and listens to us with an open mind, can
start this process.
We therefore appeal
to you to intervene personally and direct all concerned media corporates
including Media Pro, ESPN, TAJ TV Network to issue direct IRD connections and
services to our network.
Amjad Meer and
For SITE Entertainment Network (SEN),
After receiving this letter and getting
all details from the cable operators, Minister Sibal acted with lightning speed
and personally talked to the media companies who appoint cable operators on a
contractual basis to let them know that they should not succumb to illegal
pressure tactics of ruling party politicians of Jammu and Kashmir. This is the
letter he wrote to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah:
|Kapil Sibal during his visit to Pulwama in October 2012
visited your state in October 2012 at the invitation of Private Colleges
Association of Kashmir and was very moved by the warm reception I got. I was
literally given a red carpet welcome and showered with flower petals. A huge
public meeting had been organized to enable me to engage with the youth of the
Valley that included students and teachers. They showcased their singing and
dancing talent to me with great pride. Over 4000 young people had gathered in
an open ground to listen to me about the HRD ministry’s new policy initiatives.
Far from raising any anti-India slogans, all their questions to me were whether
these new initiatives the HRD ministry was taking would also reach Kashmir.
Their desire to be better connected with the rest of the country and be part of
India’s growth story was palpable.
At that time
too, I was disturbed when educationists who had invited me gave worrisome
accounts of the many ways in which private educational institutions are being
throttled due to hostile policies. These
colleges have played a salutary role in keeping the flag of education flying
during disturbed periods, at a time when even government schools and colleges
collapsed due to militancy. The professional colleges of the Valley have
provided affordable education to the youth of the Valley and directed their
energies into creative channels. I had promised them my support. But I could
not deliver on my promise because of obvious reasons.
when a delegation of cable operators of Kashmir came to meet me on 12th
March, they had an identical story about determined attempts to crush these
micro entrepreneurs, who have played a very important role in keeping the
people of Kashmir Valley connected to the rest of India as well as developments
in the rest of the world. The representation of SITE Entertainment
Network regarding shutdown of private Cable Service in valley narrates a very
worrisome story. I enclose a copy of
I am concerned
about use of police force to harass entrepreneurs and their employees. I am sure that the people of Kashmir are
entitled to pursue legitimate business activities without harassment. I know, you will never allow such harassment
to take place.
youth is a huge problem in India, including Jammu & Kashmir. The Government is not in a position to
provide jobs for everybody, nor is the corporate sector willing to invest in the
Valley given its conditions. Therefore, we need to promote avenues of
self-employment and encourage modest entrepreneurial endeavours.
I am sure, you
will, in the light of the representation made, take appropriate steps to remedy
Signed, Kapil Sibal
After two months of back and forth due to attempts
by vested interests to sabotage Mr Sibal’s intervention in favour of cable
operators, an agreement was finally signed on May 15 between MediaPro and Kashmir's cable operators.
Mr Sibal’s prompt and determined
redressal of the grievances of the two Kashmiri groups who approached him
through Manushi marks a major turn in Kashmiri politics. It is the lack of
faith and hope in the State and Central government that have made Kashmiris
adopt nihilistic forms of politics. If the Central Government is seen to be
responsive to the legitimate grievances of Kashmiris, and Kashmiris begin to
carefully sift the problems created by the Central Government from those
created by their State Government or local politicians, Kashmiri politics is
bound to become more realistic and less explosive.
© Madhu Purnima Kishwar
Posted on May 21, 2013