New Delhi, India -- Kashmir militants issued a decree last
week warning cable-television operators in the northern Indian region to stop
transmissions of all foreign networks, including CNN International, BBC World and MTV:
To make their message clear, young Islamic militants have
cut cable wires in some of the more congested areas of Sringar, Kashmir's capital.
The region's 1,000 cable operators, bowing to the
pressure, suspended all transmissions, and they hope that the issue will be resolved
peacefully. Working under the trade banner, "Cable Operators Association," they
have discretely contacted members of some of the militant organizations.
They are also in touch with Hurriat Conference, which is
comprised of leaders of different political groups, in hopes that the multilateral body
can help to resolve the conflict.
Kashmiri Cable TV, with a subscriber base of 10,000 to
15,000, is barely eight months old. Although elections were held in the conflict-torn
region two years ago, cable systems began operating there only after they were convinced
that threats from the militant groups had receded.
Kashmir has a predominately Muslim population, while the
rest of India is principally Hindu. Many of Kashmir's residents are educated and
politicized, and they took to cable very early. In the short time that cable has been
available in the region, it has been able to attract up to 100,000 viewers.
As those numbers climbed, operators began to transmit a
host of channels, including Star Movies, MTV, Channel V and CNNI. However, militants felt
that some of those channels featured an excess of sex and violence. They have described
cable programming as "an irreligious cultural ingression" that is
"un-Islamic and unethical."
Operators throughout India have decried the militants'
recent activities. But in a region where bullets can be more powerful than words, few are
inclined to take them on directly.