Kashmir Public Broadcast: Conflict, News and Broadcast in Early 90s
Duration: 00:21:55; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 35.029; Saturation: 0.268; Lightness: 0.396; Volume: 0.145; Cuts per Minute: 1.642; Words per Minute: 115.574
Summary: This is an interview with Dr. Farooq Nazki, former director of Doordarshan Kashmir and Radio Kashmir. His father Mir Ghulam Rasool Nazki was a renowned poet who wrote in Urdu, Kashmiri and Persian. In this interview Dr. Nazki talks about radio and television broadcast in Kashmir since its inception right up to the 90s when separatist movement was at its zenith.
Farooq Nazki begins by elaborating on the history of broadcast in Kashmir. Radio Kashmir was established during the time of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1948 and played a significant role in shaping the cultural renaissance in Kashmir. Mehfils and recitals which were otherwise held in exclusive spaces came to be formatted and transmitted over radio to a much larger audience. Dr. Nazki also suggests that Radio Kashmir played a significant role in projecting and building the state's pluralistic history. The community of listeners accepted and adapted to this new technology which transformed and extended the oral culture in Kashmir. More significantly perhaps is the legitimacy it may have offered to the Kashmiri language which, apart from being used within the personal and the domestic sphere, is yet to be recognized as an official language. While script remains a matter on which communities remain polarized, Radio brought conversations in spoken Kashmiri to its listeners.
I: So, you were telling me about the early 90s…
Dr. F. N: Broadcasting in Kashmiri… (language) has a different and difficult history in Kashmir. This Radio Kashmir was established by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1948. He had purchased some transmitter…he installed in a school. And he was the person who gave it the name Radio Kashmir, though the first station was in Jammu – the winter capital. He was very conscious of the richness of the history of Kashmir. He always took Kashmir as a symbol of something, an amalgam of Ladakh culture, Dogra culture. And he was very proud to be upholding the legacy of Kalhana, Soma Datta, Abhinav Gupta. And its synthesis is totally different, then it goes to Rishis…when Radio Kashmir came into being it began raising consciousness among people of their rich history, not only their landscape. In 1948, radio quickly gained acceptability (here). Due to the weather, people in Kashmir sit snugly within their homes in the evening. It's very cold during winters. Summers are very beautiful, but (we) didn't have sufficient electricity/electrification. So, in the evening after an early dinner, like the Europeans, (we'd) light lanterns…. (enter text) and listen to stories. There was a 'dastangoi' and he'd tell his own stories…like _____ ______ _______and all these things. What radio did in the beginning…these things which existed within people's minds, in mehfils and did not find a mention in public spaces; radio channelised these and aired them. Thus, radio gained immense acceptability. You're listening to music, to ___ but you're also listening to sufiana music. You're listening to ___ as well as conversation in Kashmiri., about food. Radio, (in short) became very popular. Let's leave aside how much work radio managed achieve in Kashmir, apart from a kind of cultural renaissance radio heralded a social change – tremendous change. And later, with greater exposure in 1972 we got Television.
Farooq Nazki's residence in Srinagar
And later, we had antennae and dish and began receiving Pakistani television channels… By 1990, local television had bloomed. And after Asiads, we had gone for National hook-ups. Now, radio was on a bit of a back-burner. But in rural Kashmir, radio was dominating. Suddenly in 90, what had happened, suddenly, something happened. You'll find no parallel in history, for what happened. It's not usual to have such sudden outbursts. It doesn't happen so quickly, either. As in, from the Kupwara border right up to Banihal, you wouldn't see a single soldier belonging to the Indian Army. There were some on the pickets. You, a girl could drive from here to Uri without a guard and return at midnight. You'd think I was exaggerating. So you could on and radio and leisurely drive upto the Dal or any other place. There were no guns, no crime, no _____.
Suddenly, it happened. It was like an explosion. Thousands of boys up in arms. If there's a crowd at the market, and if you speak a language and your radio broadcast gives you no news – how strange does it feel? That means you're in some different country, doing some other operation. It took us some time, but we didn't curb the news. We kept on talking…this…that. But suddenly in 1990, when people went to Chrar-e-Sharif…thereafter, militants began targeting, attacking the media –(as if to say) Stop it you can't work against us!
With the television boom of the 90s, radio seemed to receded in significance. This was also an extremely volatile time in the Valley, which Dr. Nazki refers to an explosion. Videography and the mobilization of the image itself was also experienced as a kind of visual explosion and maybe there is something that can said about the different broadcast media and the ways in which communities/societies interact with them. 1990s is also the time when private news magazines such as Eyewitness and Newstrack were in circulation within India. In the case of the radio, Dr. Nazki concedes that owing to different kinds of censorship the people, the listeners felt a disconnect with transmitted news. Dr. Nazki clearly mentions the threats issued by militants, he also alludes to state censorship and between these, the space for the circulation of stories, shared experiences and news clearly appears to have shrunk and would've taken to alternate channels and fora (equally subject to the threat of censorship). One wonders how one can re-think public culture in times of large scale conflict, especially under regimes of extreme censorship.
And an assistant director was shot, then a joint director was killed. Thereafter, what happened…a colleague and a childhood friend Lassa Koul he was heading television and I was heading radio…you're with a friend at 5 in the evening, exchanging pleasantries and talking all sorts of sense and non-sense, 8 o' clock he's slained; laid to death! So, it was a very strange kind of a ____ we couldn't quite identify with it, nor were we able to step back from it. So, it was a real crisis, what you call a chaos, it was a chaotic situation! But we went on working. TV continued to report as did we (radio). For about a month, we could… we were not able to cover 26th January. And then in February, we shifted radio to Jammu, to Delhi. We had our entire staff with us…we beamed from there. And we created a make shift studio in a hotel in Jammu, we put in camera and …And then on 13th July 2000 (…), 1992 I persuaded Mr. Dev Singh, who was very nice to me then, the Information and Broadcast Minister. I convinced them that news can come here and we can achieve our credibility. And we got the news back. But what cost! The very next day, one of our news readers was killed. Third day, television news reader was killed. These are unsung, unwept heroes. We didn't do anything for them. Absolutely nothing! Yeah alright, till the time the then Congress Government was there, Mr. Singh Dev was there, he could arrange for 3, 4 maybe 5 lakh rupees for the (victim's) families. But, what should have happened… we couldn't monitor what happened to their children…it didn't happen.
Referring once again to the early 90s strangely chaotic period Dr. Nazki speaks of he death of his friend and colleague Lassa Koul (joint director of Doordarshan) , who was killed by militants. He refers to the period interestingly as one wherein one/he could neither identify with nor disengage from. Radio transmission at this period was shifted to Jammu while television broadcast was beamed from Delhi. Such shifts could only exacerbate the divide and discrepancy between reality and its representation in Kashmir. While 9/11 is spectacularly remembered as an event that was not just viewed but photographed and recorded by numerous ordinary citizen with hand held camera phones and presently even circulated over youtube, one wonders how much remains unacknowledged within Kashmir and what independent videographers and ordinary individuals have recorded, photographed and documented. And also perhaps whether these images will ever be mobilized, circulated and viewed into more public domains. Moreover what would it mean to bring within public gaze images from different sources, images that have themselves been vulnerable yet persevered through various forms of censorship? Who can take responsibility for such images? Can such a gaze, such images and such a memory truly speak for itself? How does one facilitate it? I can't help but remember Zarif Ahmed Zarif's poem in Jashn-e-azadi http://kashmirfilm.wordpress.com/from-the-film/poets/what-frenzy-is-this/
information and broadcast
In order to regain its credibility Doordarshan shifted back to the Valley in 1992.
So, for 2 years we continued to beam news from there, and everybody in the street would tell us that the first lie that you're telling us is that this is Radio Kashmir – it's not Radio Kashmir you're preparing news at Delhi and beaming it from Delhi. That is the first lie. Then, yes it's true that it's at 7.30. That's the only truth, rest is all fabrication, concoction! Because you're not giving the correct identity.
I: This was Radio Kashmir?
Dr. F.N: Same thing happened to TV.
I: So, this was between 1990 and 1992?
Dr. F. N: Yes, 1990 and 1992. July 1992 we got it back…___ so the experiment was over and we came back. But, I was under tight security with 2 sections of CRPF in my house. And in '90 I spent most of my time in the office. I improvised a room into my bedroom and I was operating from there. For 2 years, between '90 and '92.
And most of my friends who belonged to the Kashmiri Pandit community, they migrated. So after that, our entire staff was local Muslims. But they managed. They managed Radio, they managed television, they managed post and telegraph. They did it. So, it wasn't as if nobody was in favour of India. It was nothing of the sort. People didn't run away, they began to work. Yes, the other community felt that You had to provide them with Security. To how many persons can you extend such Security? That's there as well. But the circumstances were not hospitable, the atmosphere was not right. They didn't have options either. A tiny minority. But, during that period radio made quite a contribution: knowing, at the time, that our audience is a single-minded audience, single-track audience that is Muslim audience we didn't do away with our Secular principles. The frame that we had for our programmes, our fixed point charts those continued as per schedule. Be it Chakreshwari, or Tull Mulla Kheer Bhawani festival we made our documentaries on their due date, both for radio and television. We noticed them. We said, they are not here, they have been displaced… but this is their own land, they bound to return. This is radio, thereafter we had our Koshur channel, it was during my time. So, those that were on the other side, outside Kashmir, they began identifying with Kashmiri channel and Kashmiri Radio. They were never absent from either Radio or Kashmir. And they began having phone-in programmes with them.
I: Phone-in programmes?
Dr. F. N: Yes! Where are you calling from? I'm calling from such and such a place, from Bareilly. Where are from? ____Mohal Aash is my name, I come from Mattan (Anantnag/Islamabad). Oh, you're a poet, we were just listening to some poems by your this morning.
I: Would you have any recordings of such programmes?
Dr. F. N: Radio has plenty such recordings. A lot of recordings!
The early 90s also saw the departure of the Kashmiri Pandit community. The vacuum that was left behind as a result of this was filled in by the Kashmiri Muslims: be it in education or in this case public broadcast. Radio Kashmir, Dr. Nazki proudly says continued to produce programmes around Kashmiri Pandit festivals and later even produced a dial in programme. Kashmiri Pandits who had now settled in various cities across India would call in and connect with the listeners.
Do you understand? They managed to identify themselves from their contemporary location. They named it (the programme) in Kashmiri Bal apari, paharon ke uss paa.r, Banihal ke us paar and they're calling us from there. Ordinary people. Your name? My name is Posh kuj ji (Phoolon ki dali). What is your age? 80 years. Where did you used to stay? I used to stay at ___. How was your house? Nothing much, just a small stream would flow right past our garden. We had a Chinar tree next to it. Where are you today? I'm at the camp today, the tanker hasn't arrived yet with the water. (Such a pathetic!) I remember this one interview, it was such a beautiful interview! There was lady talking so she said, 'I'm returning from the bazaar (market). American ___market__Kashmiri apples in the market I don't know if my pickle has the apples, or if they are someone else's apples, because I've left my pickle there (in Kashmir). But it appears to taste as if it were my own pickle. This appeal has worked so amazingly. And that's why I'd say that there's the Government contributes nothing in these matters. It is the intention of 3 or 4 script writers, 3 or 4 programmers. They make these things work and it is significant work. These things have happened.
It would interesting to listen to this programmes that Dr. Nazki mentions. What can one say of the irony of the circumstances faced by the caller who mentions that she used to have a house by the river and is presently waiting for the water tanker at the refugee camp? Their anecdotes are full of references to ordinary life, comforts, tastes and familiar environs. In a poem by Piarey 'Hatash' the poet wonders 'When will return that heart-warmth?/ The intimacy of winter nights is lost.' http://kashmirfilm.wordpress.com/from-the-film/poets/loss/
The sensual experiences evoke and speak of a different kind of loss.
Dr. Nazki continues to talk of programmes that were targeted at Kashmiri Pandits but one can't help but wonder if post migration secularism is reduced to the religious domain exclusively. Surely it is this kind of secularism that heightens religious polarization as is the case with the recent controversy surrounding Amarnath yatra.
You know, there's this Koshur Channel; qualitatively you may not like it, but quantitatively they have not left any period uncovered because we have a very rich cultural heritage in Sanskrit and in the form of the poetry composed by the Pandit scholars, earlier scholars especially Shaivism and Kashmiri Rishism. So, these have been documented. Besides, this is a revival. By repeating, repeating, repeating you're keeping it. From morning until night when you say your namaz you remember all the things that you have to do. That's in Arabic called Twatul: repetition. What your father did, your grandfather before him and your great grandfather before him, so it's remembered. In a similar manner, same is the case with poetry. If you keep saying Hum honge kamiyaab then it spreads across the globe. Same is the case with Saare Jahaan se achha, local poetry if you keep repeating it. Hence, tradition Hazrat Bal, Kheer Bhawani, Amar nath Yatra and you're showing the Yatra (pilgrimage) to those Pandits who cannot come. They don't have money to come. But they are watching, they able to identify.
hum honge kapmyaab
saare jahan se achhchha
I: What do you think was the difference between print and television during that period?
Dr. F. N: No, print? You mean, here? Local?
I: Yes, local.
Dr. F. N: Local or national?
I: Local, local…like Kashmiri Times or…
Dr. F. N. Local print media, their pen was arrested.. Completely grabbed! They were under terrible pressure! There you could either choose life or the pen. There couldn't be any free pen. It wsn't possible. How could, say Kashmir Times or Srinagar Times or Aftab or any other news paper afford to write against one militant group or condemn militancy? How could they do it?
I: Or the Government?
Dr. F. N : No! They could abuse the government. But hey could not save the government. How? They could not side with the government, how? How could they? The question is we were here, 30 or 40 people. If one pistol arrives inside, one man will tell us Go and sit in that room! What will we do? The entire land was hijacked and it was very easy to hijack a newspaper office and keep a permanent watch there, keep one gun man there. And dictate to him Write This! They did it, they did it!
I: And what was the difference with television?
Dr. F. N.: Television, yes because I was operating from inside a box! And I was telling the people here, Look if you can't come with me, you go to Delhi or go to Bombay. But be or leave. But for three years, 90, 91, 92, they did not translate the telecast of the President's message on 26th January or on, what do you call this, Independence Day. But the moment I took over television, Independence day came I said send me the scrip, I translated it Get me a kurta and a ___ and I'm going to announce it. I'll do it!
Indian Independence Day and Republic Day are regularly events politically used to 'prove' the authenticity of India's claims on Kashmir (and/or its integration with India) or to prove one's allegiance to the Indian state through rituals associated with such events – such as flag hoisting and telecasting the President's speech.
Dr. Nazki defends Indian Government's action against militancy citing the lack of violence between 1948-90. Although I'm not sure whether one should completely forget the arrest and detention of popular leader Sheikh Abdullah who once wrote 'Uncertainty has eaten into the very vitals of Kashmiri society.'
I: But what about documentation of daily events?
Dr. F. N.: Yes, we did!
Where ever it was possible, we went. Everyday! And both sides. Not just one side. Mostly operations. You know what you call, government guided media but the moment is whatever happened was militancy related. Cross-fire because of militancy. State-terrorism, state-police terrorism because of militancy. Atrocities by the forces, killing of innocent people by militants or by forces because of militancy. Root cause is militancy. You tell me, in times of peace from 1948 till 90 if you can spot one instance of Indian armed forces behaving in bad manner, uncivilized manner or coming down to the basti; quote me one example! One, one!
Dr. Nazki continues to elaborate on Doordarshan news broadcast during early 90s.
So there was no vengeance, there was nothing! There was a situation. In situation, the situation was very unpleasant. And certain things were very unpleasant, very unpleasant. And what was Radio or Television doing, it was giving the version of the government, this has happened, this has happened, this has happened. But you cannot forget that when my news bulletin was those days at __ and the bus was burned along with passengers in Sopore, it had to go to Bandipore. No one must've told you. I went there, along with Governor and one Ms. Asha Khosa, she was correspondent for…she was Tribune. Her husband was correspondent of Indian Express. So, Asha came with me, we made a documentary there Mr. Governor was there, we documented the whole event. We telecasted it locally. Put it on line and sent it to Delhi. This was telecast from Delhi.
I: Do you think people were watching DD?
Dr. F. N. Oh, yes they were watching they were watching that time. And some people, they telephoned me, How is it possible? How are you doing it? I said we're trying to be credible people.
I: But you were saying between 90, 91, 92 DD being broadcast from Delhi...Dr. F. N.: Delhi, we were broadcasting radio. I: You were broadcasting radio. And television?Dr. F. N: Jammu.I: Jammu. And people knew that this was being broadcast from Jammu and not from Srinagar. Dr. F. N.: They knew it, they knew it, but our caption would say Khabrein (news).I: And that undermined the credibility of …Dr. F. N. Then we thought yes, because although …look, every newspaper had carried it…news has been shifted. It wasn't a question of deceiving. We weren't saying that we were in Srinagar; we never said we were in Srinagar. Now Radio Kashmir was being broadcast over a different transmitter. But then we thought, the situation is better and we can help make things better so then we got it back. And the safety of people, who are working for the country or for any cause. Safety comes first. So, for the sake of safety we brought it here. Thereafter, people continued to sacrifice (be martyred), they died, they were killed. That was the scene of broadcasting.
Several newspaper had carried the information that Doordarshan news was being broadcast from New Delhi and Radio Kashmir from Jammu. The embarrassment perhaps abated after both television and radio returned to the valley in 1992.