Kashir Channel shuts doors on Kashmir’s artist community

By NAZIR GANAIE

Hundreds of artists and filmmakers based in Kashmir are up in arms against union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for failing to regulate Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar—alleging that the DDK has shut the doors and started “policy of cultural aggression.”

Famous actor and chairman, Joint Action Committee (JAC)—an amalgam of freelance producers, actors and filmmakers, based in Kashmir, Zameer Ashai, said that artist community in Kashmir were going through a difficult phase in their professional career. He said that eight years have passed; Doordarshan has shut the doors for the artist community—leaving them into lurch. “As artists, we are suffering. We are being victimized by the concerned quarters from Srinagar to Delhi. Every day, we are humiliated and treated indifferently,” he said.

Launched to promote Kashmiri culture and counter Pakistani propaganda, Doordarshan’s 24-hour channel in Jammu and Kashmir, DD Kashir has not produced any cultural programme from last one decade. While the channel continues to broadcast news, interviews, and an educational show for students, major part of its schedule consists of repeat telecasts or programmes lifted from sister channels like DD Urdu and DD Kisan. The continuous demand for work from its producers, DD Kashir has produced no serials, documentaries, or reality shows in years.

Scores of artists and freelance producers and directors under the aegis of Joint Action Committee (JAC) urged Government of India to restore lost glory of Kashir channel.

Ashai said that Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar has an immense role in preserving and promoting regional languages of the state. However artists were facing hardships due to the “faulty” policies of the concerned ministry in running the affairs of the channel.

He said after so many years of shutting doors on the artist community by the Doordarshan, the under pressure artist lot has chosen some other means of the livelihood. “When Kashir channel became a 24-hour channel, hundreds of artists and people associated with the profession got associated with it and started deriving their livelihood. Unfortunately due to the mess in the channel from last decade, we are all being victimized,” Ashai said.

‘Defunct Channel’

DD Kashir is a regional subsidiary television station of Doordarshan in Jammu and Kashmir—run by Broadcasting Ministry of India, Government of India, centrally focusing on tradition of Kashmiri culture and heritage, telecasting from Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, Jammu, Leh. DD Kashir would telecast programmes—focusing on Kashmiri culture and traditions and the history of Kashmir. Prasar Bharati, which has been operating Doordarshan Srinagar since 1973, had launched DD Kashir in 2000 with funds worth Rs 480 crore.

It used to be operated from Delhi but in the year 2006, the Centre decided to shift the operations of Doordarshan’s ‘Kashir’ channel back to Srinagar from Delhi after more than 17 years since the outbreak of violence in Kashmir in late 1980s—thus fulfilling a long-standing demand of the people of the Valley.

DD Kashir became a 24-hour channel from 15 August 2000. The channel used to telecast a 14 and half-hour programme daily. Out of these, commissioned programmes account for six hours, another four and half hours are taken by in-house and news/current affairs programmes while the archival programmes take four hours daily. The special audience programmes cover Gojri, Pahari, Ladakhi, Dogri, Shina, Balti, Pashto.

Artists alleged that the channel has been targeted because it was named on “Kashmir and promoting Kashmiri culture and language.”

“They haven’t targeted the channel but they have left many families starving,” said actor, Javid Ahmad Khan.  He said that recently, Director General, Doordarshan, Supariya Sahu visited the station and assured the artist community that the grievances would be addressed soon.

“Nothing was done. She just made fake promises and we were yet again deceived,” Khan said.

Freelance producer for DD, Shahzad Rasool said that Doordarshan has been “using” artist community of Kashmir for their own benefits. He said that DD Kashir was launched in 1990 and the then Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Arun Jaitley had assured that the channel would be run for the benefit of the local culture and accommodate artists.

“Cultural aggression won’t be allowed. We demand that the lost sheen of the Kashir channel should be restored on priority. The in-house programmes should be also restored so that the actors, musicians and technicians get the dignified work,” he said.

The freelance producer and directors have lashed out the GoI’s policy to shut the programmes at DD Kashir.

“When this channel was launched, it attracted many professionals. It undoubtedly gave a source of income for all of us,” said freelance producer-director, Mehraj Bazaz, who owns his audio-visual studio in Srinagar. “Some of us started our own private production houses, audio-visual studios after availing huge loans from the banks but the closure of programming at the channel has highly affected our survival,” he said.

Lashing out at the Government of India for virtually “shutting-down” Kashir channel, scores of Srinagar based artists recently hit the streets against what they call as “extinction” of Kashmiri programmes from Doordarshan’s Kashir channel.

The artists, who are affiliated with Doordarshan from decades, said that there was an “onslaught” on Kashmir language as well as on their livelihood as Prasar Bharti wasn’t producing any Kashmiri programmes for which the channel was launched.

They said the blockade of Kashmir related serials, songs and other programmes is the direct attack on Kashmiri culture and identity. “The prime time which was meant for the Kashmiri programmes has been hijacked by the Hindi films.”

“They are deliberately ignoring and removing the Kashmiri programmes. We are suffering since 2010; it has been 8 years since the authorities have blocked all Kashmir related programmes on the channel. Before 8 years, Doordarshan was running the Kashmiri serials, Kashmiri songs and other programmes. But it has been vanished now. This is an injustice with the artists, producers and other sections who were dependent on the channel,” Singer and a freelance producer, Aijaz Rah, said.

Rah like other producers had spent the amount in lakhs for producing the programmes for the Kashir channel but till now none of his programmes have been aired.

“I am feeling very bad that why didn’t I purchase a land, because my all money which I had spent on the programmes served no purpose. Doordarshan has literally killed the artists.”

Renowned actor, Kusum Dhar, said that the blockade of Kashmiri content on the Kashir channel has affected families of artists as their livelihood was dependent on the channel. “How can a Kashir channel which should be all about Kashmir telecast any other content? Artists are left in despair,” she said.

Noted music composer and head, Department of Music, Government College for Women, Prof Muzafar Ahmad Bhat, said that the lack of ‘cultural policy’ in Jammu and Kashmir was taking toll on the cultural scenario of the state. He said that institutions—including Doordarshan, Radio Kashmir, Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL) and Songs and Drama Division went off the track as far as the needs of the artist community of the Kashmir was concerned.

“The defunct nature of the channel has affected the professionals associated with this field,” Prof Bhat said. “From last 10 years, artist community and people associated with the productions are fighting for their survival,” he said, adding “Artist community is suffering big time because of this channel. Same thing is happening with the Radio, Cultural Academy—whose primary role was to preserve the Kashmiri culture and music but till date nothing has happened,” he said.

Noted singer and composer, Waheed Jeelani said that Doordarshan has proved to be a catastrophe for the artist community of Kashmir region.

“Doordarshan is not only violating its own norms but it is violating the basic human rights. The artist community has been left with no option,” Jeelani said. “I don’t how do they justify, airing feature films on the local chunks. Some of the artists from last 10 years are facing worst time of their professional career,” he said. He said that it was the responsibility of Government of India as State government to address the concerns of artists, singers and freelance producers. “This is injustice and the dignity of the artists must be restored.”

Jeelani said that DD Kashir alleged lost its track. “We can’t even watch the channel in our family. Such is the degradation of the content,” Jeelani said. “This is unfortunate how local chunk is being used for airing unmatched archival material,” he said.

“Artists associated with the Doordarshan channel are the worst sufferers,” he said, adding “the Kashir channel was launched in 2000 and that time Vajpayee had assured to promote the Kashmiri talent on the channel. But now it has become a Bollywood channel rather than Kashmiri channel.”

Pertinently, Doordarshan’s much-hyped Kashir channel was formally launched in June, 2000 amid star Bollywood attractions, the then Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, Arun Jaitley, the then Governor, Girish Chandra Saxena and the then Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah.

On the launching day, the then Union Information and Broadcasting Minister and current Finance Minister in BJP government, Arun Jaitley had said “More than mere entertainment it is a message that this show could be held in Srinagar. The Channel will be exhibiting Kashmir’s unique culture,” Jaitley had said.

Prasar Bharati, which has been operating Doordarshan Srinagar since 1973, had launched DD Kashir in 2000 with funds worth Rs 480 crores. Viewers today complain of declining quality. “I have been watching DD Kashir since I was a kid. There are no new shows, and I must have watched each old show five to six times,” said Bakhtawar, viewer and resident of central Kashmir’s Budgam.

“The quality of the content is very crass. It often misrepresents the Kashmiri culture by giving it a Bollywood influence,” said Farooq Masudi, head of Kashmir University’s Media Education Research Centre. Media producers and cultural activists from the Valley met on Tuesday to discuss the present state of the channel. The group issued a statement saying, “DD Kashir is not only a defunct institution, but due to choking of financial resources by the authorities at Prasar Bharati and Doordarshan Directorate, the local administration has been left with no choice but to telecast trash in the name of repeat telecast of decades old programmes. The content and the presentation standard of these programmes is a disservice to Kashmir’s culture.”

Noted actor and humorist, Nazir Josh, castigated government of India’s policy of shutting down the much-hyped, Kashir Channel, alleging that channel has become a “scandal.”

“Every day, they run feature films, archival material. This has not only affected us as artists but it has severally degraded the content of the channel,” Josh said. “In a place like, Kashmir, where we witness bloodshed and mayhem on daily basis, people need a window of entertainment not vulgarity,” Josh alleged, adding “It is a well-planned move by the authorities to launch this onslaught and shutdown the channel.”

Josh also said that some of the veterans in the field took voluntarily retirement from their respective departments and gave their 100 per cent to the Doordarshan in launching the channel long back. However, the now the authorities have rewarded them in their unique style.

“GoI wants us to be dependable as they see Kashmir as a colony and nearly 20000 artists associated with Doordarshan are no different for them,” Josh alleged.

 

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