KASHMIR – A new decision banning Islamic channels and programs in the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir has sparked criticism, being condemned as a direct interference with Muslims’ right to practice their religion.
The decision to ban more than 30 Islamic and Pakistani channels was issued earlier this month after the state’s home department told government officials to stop broadcasting Muslim news and religious programs.
“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 Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India],” Srinagar’s additional district magistrate said in an order passed on July 12.
On July 24, human rights activists in Kashmir challenged the federal government’s ban order in court.
According to a state official, the directive to ban these channels came from the federal government’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
“The reason for such action is that it is felt that youth may become radicalized by watching these channels, so therefore it is a pre-emptive measure,” said the official.
Denying Muslims the right to watch their channels, the decision is also expected to render hundreds of people working with television networks jobless.
“Thousands who cannot go to Mecca for the hajj due to old age watch Saudi TV [via religious channels] to get some spiritual solace. How can the live transmission of congregational prayers in Mecca radicalize locals or be a security issue?” Sajad Ahmad a network operator said.
Owais Ahmad, a journalist working in Kashmir said the government was playing with religious sentiment because its reasoning does not hold water.
“The government should know that youth are lured by extremists through the internet, not through television,” he said.
Kashmir‘s chief Muslim scholar and separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told ucanews.com that banning Islamic channels was an autocratic decision to undermine the sentiments of Muslim people.