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Mass Media & Kashmir in 1900s

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

kashmir-global-network : Message: [kashnet] Mass Media & Kashmir in 1900s

Mass Media & Kashmir in 1900s
Print media witnesses many ups and downs
From Masood Hussain
SRINAGAR, Jan 1: Existence of “press” in the state in twentieth century
notwithstanding, the effective mass media appeared on the scene only in the
post-partition era. Most of the struggle against the Dogra monarchy that
dominated the
first four decades was carried out with the traditional tools of defiance,
protest and
voluntary arrests. The press, that was supportive to the Kashmir fight, was
far away in
the Punjab.

Though the emergence of the press in literal sense of the word dates back to
early
forties, its development is totally a post-partition story. So is the case
of radio that came
in 1948 and Television that arrived in early seventies. Though the state-run
media may
claim to have accomplished some of its targets, the print continues to be in
a position
where its struggle for being “responsive and free” is on so that it assumes
the image of
a “leader and trend setter” like other literate communities.

Of the 234 publications registered across the state, 84 are from Kashmir.
These include
43 daily-newspapers. Unlike recent past, Kashmir journalism is not
necessarily the Urdu
journalism as four newspapers are being published in English and three of
them are
available on the world wide web (www). Behind these “successes”, there is a
long
history in which the community underwent ups and downs, which during certain
regimes
led to the banning of a number of publications.

Dr Jawhar Qadousi, a scholar journalist, who has researched the subject,
divides the
history of media (more precisely print) in six different periods. The first
period that ends
with the partition, was the most primitive period during which there were
stringent laws
to prevent the publication of anything against the monarchy. The Glansy
Commission
Report of 1932, said Qadousi, did help in making things easier for the
people in
education and employment and so also the media. Some new papers started
coming
out with a bit of more independence and the monarchy would not go against
them, he
added.

However, in the second period (1947-1953) in which it was Sheikh Mohammed
Abdullah ruling the “just freed state”, things started changing fast. No
criticism was
accepted. Qadousi refers to the “dragging and beating” of Somnath Tickoo in
December 1948, by the National Conference (NC), despite that his paper was
pro-NC.

The Press Act, which had been amended by Maharaja to make things easier for
the
newspapers, was amended again and made harsher. The period witnessed the
rise of
various pro-NC newspapers. After his arrest, Bakhshi Gulam Mohammed took the
control and unleashed his “infamous” peace brigade against the media.
Qadousi, who
terms 1953-63, as the third period of the media, says 16 newspapers were
banned by
the regime.

The subsequent regimes of Gulam Mohammed Sadiq and Syed Mir Qasim (1964-75)
were affordable. Sadiq, he says, was initially supportive but in 1965 and
1967; he
banned 16 other newspapers. “By and large he was supportive and soft and Mir
Qasim
also continued with the same policy”, he added.

He terms the fifth phase of 1977-88 as the best period for the print media
in Kashmir.
There was a better quantum of freedom available and the proprietors
installed the offset
printing presses. This helped in expanding the readership that was limited
to the ruling
elite, bureaucracy and the upper stratum of the society.

The sixth phase that started from 1989 and continues has been the worst and
the most
challenging phase. Though it helped newsmen in proving their acumen while
the guns
were shooting from all sides, the era claimed lives of eight persons from
this
microscopic community. At certain junctures, the community would be at the
receiving
end from all the parties involved in the mess. In the history of print media
in Kashmir, the
newspaper never witnessed so much of circulation of their papers, however,
neither of
them could maintain it in the subsequent years.

“Sometimes, the freedom of the press seemed to be a myth”, said a
journalist, “and
sometimes one feels being suffocated”. They have been working under pressure
and
duress from various sides at the same time. “Is not it difficult to manage
peace with all
parties on a single incident that involves them all ?”, said a reporter,
“long live the
concept of so called balancing the copy”. That the Kashmir scribes have been
working
on a razor’s edge for the last over one decade is an old story now. The new
story is that
there are concerted efforts at various levels to play with the credibility
of the people
reported from Srinagar.

“Some newspapers were having six to eight pages before the militancy set in
and now
you see how difficult it is for a proprietor to change even a single page of
his
publication”, says Qadousi. With pressures from all the quarters, it has hit
the news
content, which ultimately has affected the quality. This all has helped the
newspapers to
witness a slump in their circulation. With these challenges before the print
media in the
twentieth, it seems the publication of a “complete language (Urdu)
newspaper” from
Srinagar becomes an agenda for the next century.

The print media in Kashmir has not registered its role-player status in the
society which
has been its biggest failure and that has given it the image of a parasitic
bourgeois in
the power elite and hagiographer among the commoner. It has avoided
addressing its
economic aspect. With quite a few newspapers self-sufficient, most of the
rest are a
flouting lot. Of late, the language press has started recruiting the
professionals. The
Kashmir University is running two units – Media Education & Research
Department and
Audio Video Research Department with the candidates getting post-graduate
degrees.
Since both the courses are meant for the English and the electronic media,
the
language press is not getting professional help.

Unlike print media, the case of state-run public broadcasting is more or
less a success
stories as far as their targets and reach is concerned. Radio came into
being in 1948
with the primary aim to counter the offensive broadcasting being made on the
other side
of the Kashmir, or the other part of India that was by then the Islamic
Republic of
Pakistan.

While delivering this primary duty, the radio became the most powerful
medium in the
state. It contributed in imparting non-formal education to the people.
Besides, trying to
guide the peasant, the main worker of the Valley’s agrarian economy, it did
prove a
source of entertainment.

However, its biggest crisis was the migration of its Regional News Unit
(RNU) to
Jammu for a couple of years (after 1990), during which, it would broadcast
the lie – Yeh
Radio Kashmir Srinagar Hai. Because of its compulsions, the RNU would
broadcast
everything that would neutralise the gains of the institution on other
fronts.

DD’s story is no more different. Its news section also migrated after its
Director Lassa
Koul was gunned down. However, its reach is limited as least number of
people own the
TV sets. Th
e erratic power supplies and the presence of more international
channels
has made its reach more limited.

Though the twin institutions can claim a right of helping the local
litterateur, the poet,
singer and other related professionals, but the monitory benefits did went
straight-away
to certain families and groups while society got a lot of gossip, scandals
and the new
narcissist trends in various periods. DD might have done hundreds of
programmes, the
fact is that people do not remember anything beyond Hazaar Dastaan.

As far the Internet, the fastest growing information highway that has
started transforming
the life, Kashmir is not lagging behind other areas in the third world. Of
the five
newspapers from the state available on the net, three are from Kashmir.
Infact Kashmir
was on the net much before the facility came to Kashmir in 1998. Perhaps
Kashmir is
the only place from the third world that dominates over one lakh web pages
on the net.

Ask rediff.com, a respectable on-line newspaper, about Kashmir – they have
28, 011
sites available as their “editor’s choice”. Search through the routine
search engines
Yahoo and MSN, you get 21 standard linking sites and 200 top spots,
respectively. And
if you choose the Alta Vista, it would offer you 84,905 web pages. Even the
amazon.com, the biggest bookstore on the net, you have 303 titles about
Kashmir
available on the first day of the 2000.

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