Calicut (Sep 28, 2009) Peace TV, India’s only Islamic Television channel reportedly being banned from broadcasting through DTH (Direct to Home) providers in the country. Website of Consumer Welfare Society, Delhi is swamped with complaints against the media ban. According to the response received from various DTH providers in the country, PEACE TV has been removed from their broad casting list. Cable Television Network Rule 6 (6) says a channel can’t up link from or downlink into India unless it’s registered with the I&B Ministry. But despite being not registered and not possessing a valid licence, the 24-hour Peace TV, popular in many Muslim pockets across India, has been operating for the last three years. Peace TV is promoted by The Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), Mumbai, a registered non -profit charitable trust which was established in 1991. The channel never had a history of airing explicit or violent content except religious talks or sessions based on comparative religious studies. The channel is guided by a medical doctor and Indian citizen, Dr. Zakir Naik, an internationally respected scholar.
Naik, however, maintained that he didn’t own Peace TV. “The owner is a Dubai-based company and it applied for registration months ago. But the ministry hasn’t issued it a certificate yet,” he said, refusing to divulge the identity or the contacts of Peace TV’s Dubai-based “owner”. Naik’s Interfaith Dialogue with prominent Hindu Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on the topic ‘The Concept of God in Hinduism and Islam in the light of Sacred Scriptures’ held at Palace Grounds, Bangalore, on 21st Jan. 2006, was highly appreciated by people of both the faiths.
In the special list of the “Top 10 Spiritual Gurus of India” by Indian Express News Paper, Dr. Zakir Naik was ranked No. 3, after Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, being the only Muslim in the list. Dr. Zakir Naik appears regularly on many international T.V. Channels in more than 200 countries of the world.
Some cable operators, who earlier showed Peace TV, have stopped beaming it. Hathway, one of the major cable operators which provides services in many parts of the Mumbai city, has pulled the plug on the channel.
Hindutva fascism spread so much poison in our society by spreading hatred through media and by aligning with their favourable media czars like Rupert Murdoch. It seems to be the interests of sangh parivar groups are more behind the unofficial ban on the one and only Muslim religious TV channel in the country. On Sep 23, J Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer, a sangh favoured media, wrote an article demanding police action against DTH providers who downlink Islamic TV channles like Peace TV, ARY Q TV, TV Maldives, Saudi TV. Rupert Murdoch’s Star News happily beams the stories about the evidence of existence of Ravana’s air-craft repair centre in Sri Lanka, and mythology has gained more credence than science in our age, the era of the death of rationalism. Press freedom of multi-culturalism has to confront the media discourse of Hindutva at many levels. It is not absent mindedness of Atal Behari Vajpayee, who appointed three stalwarts of Hindutva as Ministers of Home, Education and Information and Broadcasting. While the Vajpayee coalition government does not have any success story, L. K. Advani, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj actively, and aggressively, pursued the Hindutva agenda in these ministries.
Advani’s legacy at Information and Broadcasting made ‘religion’ as big business in India and the recent visual media explosion has seen a flurry of “religious” TV channels take to the air, broadcasting prayers, congregations, faith messages, feel-good speeches, question and answer sessions, astrological predictions, etc.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting given permission to 454 channels for downlinking in India which includes 18 Christian evangelical channels. The evangelical TV channel of Pat Robertson, who publicly called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also downlinked and broadcasted by India’s DTH providers.
There is also flourishing media institution which can be called evangelical Hinduism. Hindu TV evangelists include living gods like Swami Ramdev, Amma, Sathya Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and many others. They are the Pat Robertsons and Billy Grahams of modern Hinduism.
In Nov 2008, the telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI), in a recommendation to the Centre, has suggested that religious bodies should be barred from owning television stations or having any role in distributing them. News reports quote TRAI as saying that where permission has been given, they should be phased out slowly: “Such a rule would be in tune with the secular nature of our constitution.”
In a nation where faith is such an integral part of even governmental functions, is what we watch any business of the State? Is it a needless intrusion in our lives? An outright ‘ban’ is not the way a democracy should work. If a particular TV channel is actually fomenting and spreading hatred, that channel should be banned at once. Is it fair to ban only a channel belongs to a well respected Muslim religious scholar in a secular republic like India?
With inputs from Thejas News paper, Kozhikode,