Radio Kashmir was created to counter
the proxy war by Pakistan.
Rajesh Bhat traces
the history of this unique institution
Following a raid by Pakistan in October, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh set
up the state’s first radio station at Jammu soon after (December)
Photos by the writer
European countries used radio as a psychological weapon and a propaganda
tool, particularly during the Word War II, our neighbour Pakistan has
abusing this medium of sound while fighting a proxy war with India on
Upholding the principle that
no war can be fought without lies which can fly fast, the Pakistani
administration, right from its military rulers and strategists to its media,
since 1947 had been using the air waves in its propaganda against India in
Jammu and Kashmir. The objective of this anti-India tirade has been to
stimulate hatered to influence the minds of the ordinary men and women, in
particular the Muslims of the Kashmir valley.
After realising the designs of
Pakistan, India has given an equal fight, mostly through Radio Kashmir.
It sounds odd when anchors of
Prasar Bharati’s Radio Kashmir have to make announcements about their
identity every day, "This is Radio Kashmir’’. But in the cities of Jammu and
Srinagar, the two All-India Radio (AIR) stations are purposefully known and
addressed by a different nomenclature.
The two premier broadcasting
institutions of the state were set up with a specific purpose 62 years ago.
And all these years, they have justified their existence, guarding the unity
and integrity of the nation through its strategic broadcasts, both in the
times of peace and war.
There is an interesting
history behind the creation of Radio Kashmir. After the tribal raid launched
by Pakistan in October, 1947, the then Maharaja Hari Singh set up two radio
stations, the first at Jammu on December 1, 1947 and the second at Srinagar
on July 1, 1948. Both these stations, set up with the active support of the
Government of India and the Indian Army, initially functioned under the
state government till April, 1954, and later merged with the AIR.
They, however, retained their
separate identity for a special reason. This was to counter the Pakistani
media, particularly some of its over and underground radio stations mostly
operating from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), apart from educating,
entertaining and informing the public.
One such radio station, set up
across the border, was the infamous "Radio Trarkhal’’. Its sole aim was to
spit venom against India, recalls Radio Kashmir-Jammu’s ace broadcaster and
its first anchor, Bodh Raj Sharma.
Sharma recalls how Radio
Kashmir was set up in Jammu’s Ranbir High School under extreme emergency.
"Pakistani raiders had already intruded into Kashmir. To counter the rumours
of war, a classroom in Ranbir school was converted into an open studio while
another room was utilised as a duty room-cum-control room," he adds
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during her visit to Radio Kashmir,
Srinagar, in 1964. To her right is Station Director, N. L. Chawla
Photo: Courtesy AIR archives
A separate file on the
establishment of Radio Kashmir has been preserved in the archival section of
the State Department of Archives and Museums at Jammu. A detailed study of
the file reveals many interesting facts.
J. N. Zutshi was the first
Director-General of Radio Kashmir, who also held the post of the Secretary,
State Information and Broadcasting Ministry. He was the one to recruit the
staff for Radio Jammu. Zutshi’s contemporary was P. C. Choudhery, who was
the Director-General of the All-India Radio in 1947-48.
The proposal to establish a
radio station was taken by Maharaja Hari Singh on November 15, 1947, and
within two weeks, the station was established and the first broadcast was
made by the maharaja himself on December 1 at 6.30 pm.
It was a live broadcast and
the Dogra ruler was facing a mike for the first time. "In those days, there
was no provision to record speeches," recalls Sharma.
In his first-ever radio
speech, the Maharaja of J&K justified his decision to accede to the Union of
India. A number of national and foreign newspapers, which had their
representatives in Srinagar and Jammu, carried his speech quite prominently.
This irked the Pakistani
media, which then speeded up its anti-India bashing. Programmes like Dhol
Ka Pol andZarbe-Kaleem were
frequently aired by Pakistani radio stations, while trying to play with the
religious sentiments of Kashmiri Muslims.
"Such programmes were creating
some unrest among the masses. And to clear the doubts and restore confidence
among the people, Radio Kashmir carried out counter-propaganda, but with
decency through programmes like Danke
Ki Aawaz," recalls Sharma.
Former Secretary, J&K Cultural
Academy, Prof Rita Jitendra, who had an association of more than 55 years
with Radio Kashmir, recalls how the station would also plan and conceive a
number of counter-propaganda programmes during the 1965 and 1971 wars.
"Noted broadcaster Melville Demello used to visit Jammu to plan programmes
on the pattern of A Nation
Prepared, which he anchored himself’," recalls Professor Jitendra.
Radio Jammu’s legendary
announcer, Rita Yousuf, gets nostalgic about those days when she would play
lead roles in most of the counter-propaganda programmes. A stock character,
known by the broadcast name of "Guddi" even today on the other side of the
border, Rita recalls: "We were fighting the war equally, with our vocal
chords while raising the morale of our jawans and
at the same time hitting the enemy hard through our programmes like Zalim
Khan and Jawabi
Noted Dogri scholar and former
Station Director of Radio Kashmir-Jammu, Dr Jatindra Udhampuri, recalls, "To
counter the Pakistani programme Dhol
Ka Pol, Radio Kashmir was airing Naqqara —
a programme wherein Pakistan’s military regime was criticised. Punjabi and
Urdu mushairas and
dramas were frequently broadcast for the listeners of Pakistan to remind
them that they, too, are part of the composite culture of the subcontinent."
J S Pardesi, having worked as
Programme Executive at Radio Kashmir-Jammu, recalls how programmes like, Jai
Bharat and Fathu
Coachwan were being broadcast
during those tense times.
"Even today, we broadcast
programmes like Waqt Ki Baat and Haqeeqat
Yeh Hai to counter Pakistani
propaganda," says Sanjay Koul, Programme Executive working at Radio Kashmir,
Interestingly, Radio Kashmir’s
first anchor, Bodh Raj Sharma, still writes counter-propaganda scripts for
which the Government of India spends a huge amount of money under the "J&K
Package’’ every year.
Radio Kashmir’s second
station; set up in Srinagar in 1948, too, all these years has fought the war
"During the six decades of its
existence, the story of Radio Kashmir is an interesting saga of growth. This
spread the all-embracing broadcasting culture in Jammu and Kashmir," says
veteran journalist Shyam Kaul.
Kaul, a frequent participant
in various radio programmes, is of the opinion that Radio Kashmir has stood
out as the only centre which touched great heights in countering the vicious
enemy propaganda during all these 62 years. "FromJawabi Hamla of
1947 to Wotul Bujhe of
1965 and Wadi Ki Awaz in
later stages, it was a centre of excellence all the way, with people like
Pardesi, Rashak, Mahinder Kaul, Kedar Nath, G. R. Nazki, Bashir Butt, Pran
Kishore, S. N. Sadhu, Mohd Sultan, Mohd Abdullah, Manohar Prohiti, Nikki
Appa and Taj Begum working in front of the mike and behind it, tirelessly,"
propaganda has not been the only duty of Radio Kashmir during all these
years of turmoil. As a humane medium, Radio Kashmir conceived, planned and
produced a number of programmes with an aim to bring the misguided youth of
the state back into the national mainstream. Aaawaz
Do Kahan Howas one such programme broadcast over Radio Kashmir, Jammu’s
CBS Channel. Similarly, Radio Kashmir, Srinagar, started a programme Kashmir
Bula Raha Hai, calling upon Kashmiri Pandit migrants to return to their
From 1990 to 1993, Radio
Kashmir, however, faced some tough and testing moments. Its former Station
Director, Lassa Kaul, was killed by militants for countering the Pakistani
propaganda. Station Engineer S. P. Singh also died in the line of duty when
a rocket crashed through the roof and landed in the room from where he was
broadcasting. Two announcers Ramesh Marhatta and Mohd Hussain Zafar, too,
were shot at in their legs.
The casualty list is quite
long with numerous attempts made by militants to blast the broadcasting
"The news unit was shifted to
Delhi as it had become the target of militants," recalls former AIR
correspondent, Ajit Singh.
"And those who were left
behind to keep the institution functioning, put their lives at risk, at
times staying in the radio complex for days together," recalls, Shamshad
Kralwari, a programme executive.
During those days, Pakistani
intelligence agencies had resorted to another gimmick by operating yet
another underground radio station under the name of "Sada-e-Hurriyat’’ (A
voice of freedom).
It became a stiff challenge
for the staff of Radio Kashmir to counter vicious programmes of this
underground radio station, being aired in Urdu, Kashmiri, Gojri and Pahari
To counter Sada-e-Hurriyat, a
unique programme called Sada-e-Jaras (Sound
of Trinket) was broadcast both by Radio Kashmir-Srinagar and Jammu for years
Propaganda apart, Radio
Kashmir has still not lowered its guard even during peacetime in educating,
entertaining and informing both its rural and urban listeners. Its Pahari
and Gojri music, besides Punjabi and Urdu dramas, are all-time hits even on
the other side of the border. That is what the hundreds of letters, the
station receives every week from that country, have to tell.