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DD Kashir Needs Overhaul

By Zafar Choudhary

27 October, 2006

DD Kashir is finally on its way to where it ideally should have been –Srinagar. A welcome step indeed, but still a lot more needs to be done to appropriate the role of a television channel running on the public exchequer.

The Minister for Information and Broadcasting Priyaranjan Dasmunshi who was recently in Srinagar has raised hopes of hundreds and thousands of people here who have remained critically ambiguous about the role and purpose of the DD Kashir for last six years. As its name sounds, the channel was supposedly meant for Jammu and Kashmir, but its role as a media outlet could not be appropriated ever since its inception. What purpose DD Kashir has been serving at the cost of public exchequer for last six years is yet to unfold. The I&B Minister Dasmunshi, before leaving Srinagar last weekend, promised an inquiry into the affairs of DD Kashir. That inquiry might unfold the mystery of its function but right now people, particularly those associated with the media, have described the announcement of shifting DD Kashir to Srinagar as an apt Diwali and Eid gift to Jammu and Kashmir.

Exact figures of expenditure, though not available, but this channel has remained a wastage of public fund for the six years. The purpose with which the channel was launched has never been served then what exactly it was doing is guesswork.

In the late 1990s the government was too much concerned over the propaganda against Indian state launched by Pakistan through its television and radio network. Therefore a strong need was felt to set up an official media network for the counter-propaganda. A platform for the promotion of local culture and a nationalist media network to reach every household of the state was, however, the reason explained by the government while setting this channel. DD Kashir was thus a part of Rs 450 crore package for strengthening Doordarshan and All India Radio capabilities in Jammu and Kashmir. For a trial run, the channel came into being on January 26, 2000 –on the eve of Republic Day. It was on June 9, 2000 that DD Kashir was formally launched in Srinagar –the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir –with an unprecedented fanfare. The function was about the commissioning of a 10 kw-high power television transmitter which increased the reach of the channel to a radius of 40 km. Megastar Amitabh Bachan and other screen personalities including Sajjid Khan, Rubi Bhatia et al joined the launch ceremony with then I&B Minister Arun Jaitley, J&K Governor Girish Chander Saxena and then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah. The launch ceremony witnessed best of local culture on the state. Ironically, the choice of the venue of the launch ceremony – Srinagar –and display of local culture was literally symbolic in nature. After that where did the administrative set up of the channel vanished and what happened to that local culture which this channel was supposed to promote could never be known for next six years.

Making a best description of the plunder of the public find and blatant deceit to the public faith, the channel slipped out with its administrative set up to New Delhi. The administration engaged all those people for making programs and other media packages to those people who had little or no idea of what the culture of Jammu and Kashmir is exactly like, what aspirations do people espouse. Not only this, a half an hour-long viewing of the channel would make even the gullible understand that producers of the program do not have even a geographical idea of Jammu and Kashmir. The channel went on like this and all hues and cries from Jammu and Kashmir fell on deaf ears. The way producers and other program makers from Jammu and Kashmir were kept out of the DD Kashir affairs was apparently a well thought strategy. The producers were categorized into 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D' for allotment of programs. The 'A' category is for the producers who have an experience of 150 and above episodes at the national hook up. While the 'B' category was those with experience of 100 episodes. This is being written with authority that there is not even a single producer from Jammu and Kashmir to fall in 'A' and 'B' category though there are hardly few in 'C' and 'D' categories. Therefore, in a national competition for allotment of programs not more than five to ten per cent of the total program quantum would to the producers belonging to Jammu and Kashmir. "I left my home in Kathua district and moved along with family to a rented accommodation in Jammu to station myself there so as to devote full time and energy to programs for DD Kashir", said R P Vaid a producer of eminent repute who could never get even a single program. "When applied, I made to compete with Chopras of BR Chopra fame. As expected, I had to loose at the competition. I kept on trying for five years but could never get an apportunity", says Vaid who apart from being a producer is also a script writer par excellence. Vaid's is not a case in isolation –this is the story of almost every producer from Jammu and Kashmir who tried for DD Kashir.

"We made several representations to the Union government, state government and Prasar Bharti for shifting administrative office of the channel to anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir but all in vain", says Atul Dutt, another producer. It is a popular belief in the media circles here that the Union Home Ministry has always been against shifting base of the channel to Kashmir as they did not expect the channel to serve desired interests in the Valley –the interests of the government of India. The government has always been wary of the involvement of the local people in the national media. "Transfer of Rafiq Masudi from Srinagar to New Delhi and his stay there for more than ten years is a case in point", says a local AIR official who did not wish to be named. It was in early 1990s that Rafiq Masudi, then working at Radio Kashmir Srinagar, was shifted to Delhi on advice of the Home Ministry following allegations of separatist tendencies. He has now been brought to Jammu and Kashmir on deputation as Secretary of the J&K State Academy for Art Culture and Languages. In mid 1990s another Radio official was shifted to South India for asking an uncomfortable question viz a viz Kashmir to a visiting Union Minister at a press conference in Srinagar.

When I&B Minister Dasmunshi was in Srinagar to formally launch the Rainbow FM service of the All India Radio, he received a volley of questions on DD Kashir at a crowded news conference. At the end of news conference he announced that administration of Doordarshan's Jammu and Kashmir-specific 'Kashir' channel would be shifted to Srinagar and 75 per cent of commissioned programmes would go to local producers in the State. Remaining 25 per cent of the commissioned programmes would be allotted to migrants and others, he said. However, Dasmunshi said that chosing the place where programmes for the channel will be produced is the prerogative of the producers. Dasmunsi said he had ordered the cancellation of all allotments of commissioned programmes pending an inquiry into alleged scandal in Kashir Channel. The Minister said there were allegations that many Benami producers had hijacked the channel and investigations revealed that some allotments were fake. To the pleasure of budding talent, the Minister said, a new category 'F' of producers has been introduced to promote the young local talent who had just passed out of music schools and had the zeal to make it big in programme production or acting but had no experience.

A few people who wanted to loot this empire will be in trouble if the facts are revealed now, he said. The minister admitted that many fraudulent producers had hijacked the channel and upon investigation it was found that some allotments were fake and some genuine.

Another bonanza he announced was a provision of unprecedented and unexpected dimension for the State to be included in the 11th plan of Prasar Bharti. It will be a priority item to be implemented at the beginning of the 11th plan and not at its fag end, he said.

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is credited with bringing the Kashir Channel back to Srinagar said, "it was strange that channel is in the name of Kashmir and 80 percent of its benefit was being drawn by non-locals". He said during last 17 years many doors of livelihood earning and job seeking for the youth of Kashmir got closed and they remained beleaguered in the atmosphere of no-opening, adding that Kashir Channel would provide ample room to the talented young artists, writers, producers, directors, singers, musicians, poets, etc to contribute and showcase Kashmir's rich cultural temperament and also earn respectable livelihood.

The happiness over the shifting of DD Kashir to Srinagar is discernible but appropriation of its role as a public media is still a long way to go. When the idea about launching a special Jammu and Kashmir specific channel of the Doordarshan was being discussed in New Delhi (read Cenral Government), the Jammu and Kashmir government was asked to suggest a name. Farooq Nazki, an eminent literary personality, the then media advisor to the Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah suggested the name 'Kashir' and it was selected. Kashir exactly stands for Kashmir as Indian stands for Kashmir. However, the basic point to understand here is that Jammu and Kashmir is not only Kashmir –it is Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Three regions are different from each other with their distinct cultural and linguistic identity and of course every thing that contributes in making of an identity. And also, Kashmir is not the language spoken by majority of total population of the state. The prominent languages are Dogri, Gojari, Bodhi, Pahari and Sheena. The speakers of these languages have a definite cultural and ethnic identity of their own. For example, Duggar is the second largest cultural identity and its language Dogri has place in the eighth schedule of the constitution of India. Similarly, Gujjars make third largest cultural and ethnic identity of the state and their language Gojari is a part of the sixth schedule of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. The speakers of these languages can neither understand nor speak Kashmiri –the medium of over 90 per cent of the programs on DD Kashir.

Though a 24 hours channel, DD Kashmir has total program length of eight hours every day. Same programs are repeated twice over next 14 hours. More than 90 per cent of these programs are in Kashmiri serve absolutely no purpose with 12 of the total 14 districts and more than 65 per cent of the total population of Jammu and Kashmir.

Shifting to DD Kashir to Srinagar is welcome step, but there is need of overhauling and restructuring entire program mechanism to suit the public aspirations as after all it is the public money that is being burnt.

The author is resident editor of the Jammu edition of the English daily, Kashmir Images, and executive director of the Center for Media Research and Documentation at Jammu. He can be contacted at

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