Several Islamic, cultural and culinary programmes continued to be aired on cable networks in Kashmir despite a government ban on 34 television channels in the strife-torn Valley.
The government banned these channels on May 6, saying these have the “potential to encourage or incite violence and create law and order disturbance in the Kashmir Valley”.
The order, signed by home department principal secretary RK Goyal, says equipment of cable TV operators could be confiscated if they breach the ban.
Topping the list are the Urdu and English programmes of Peace TV, the channel run by controversial fugitive Islamic preacher and televangelist Zakir Naik. Some of the channels are from Pakistani networks such as ARY, PTV and GEO.
Several Islamic channels such as Karbala TV, Ahli-biat TV, Noor TV and Hadi TV are also mentioned in the order along with two culinary channels and one each airing sports and music programmes.
Khateeb Hussain, who runs a cable business and is a member of the Cable Operators Association of Kashmir, said the ban on some channels was justified.
“But why ban channels which telecast pure Islamic content? Why ban channels which teach cooking recipes or are purely cultural?”
Hindu and Sikh religious channels are also broadcast on their networks, he said.
The ban on Islamic channels in the Muslim-majority Valley will hit business as people subscribe to local cable networks to watch these programmes which are not beamed by branded operators such as Tata Sky and Airtel.
“The cultural and religious channels don’t show anything that can cause law-and-order problems in Kashmir. A representative of cable operators met the deputy commissioner of Srinagar and conveyed our objection to the blanket ban,” Hussain said.
Another cable operator in Srinagar, who didn’t wish to be named, feared that the ban based purely on religious lines could trigger more trouble in the volatile region. “Cable operators might have to face the brunt.”
Deputy commissioner Farooq Lone downplayed any opposition from cable operators.
A resident of Srinagar’s old quarters, Ashiq Ahmed, said: “Older people regularly watch these Islamic channels and they will be devastated by the ban. There is nothing political in these channels, only religious teachings and knowledge.”