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Ban on cable network continues in Kashmir

Written by: Staff
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Srinagar, May 14: Despite assurances by Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militant outfits to the cable operators to resume services, news and entertainment channels continued to be off air in Kashmir on the third consecutive day today.

Four more militant outfits -- Al Nasireen, Al Arifeen, Farzandan-e-Millat and Save Kashmir Movement -- have reportedly supported the ban, terming it as a ''timely step to thwart a conspiracy aimed at destroying the social fabric of Jammu and Kashmir.'' It may be recalled that the four militant groups had strongly opposed the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service last year and threatened to turn it into a ''coffin''.

Cable operators across the Valley discontinued airing news and entertainment channels on Friday morning after four militant organisations -- Al Madina Regiment, Al Badr Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen -- warned of a ''fidayeen (suicide)'' attack on them for resuming the services.

However, in a fresh statement the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, one of the four militant outfits which had imposed the ban, asked the cable operators to resume their services.

''The ban has been imposed so that the people involved in the sex scandal do not get exposed. Cable operators should resume their services and only stop beaming obscene channels,'' Hizb spokesman Junaid-ul-Islam told a local news agency here.

He warned those who threatened Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of Faith) chief Asiya Andrabi for her support to cable operators.

''We salute Asiya for her efforts in exposing the people involved in the flesh trade. Banning the cable services will only benefit the people involved in the sex racket,'' the spokesman said.

He alleged that the ''Indian agencies'' have been distributing lists of innocent girls while on other side they ban the publicity of the scandal.

The Hizb spokesman claimed that no constituent of the Muzaffarabad-based United Jihad Council (UJC), an umbrella organisation of militant outfits operating in Jammu and Kashmir, has banned the cable network in the Valley.

Harkat spokesman Qari Omar also supported the Hizb's stand on the cable network.

''Banning the cable services would render hundreds of people jobless and this is unethical,'' he said.

In a faxed statement to the local media here a few days ago, Abdullah Mubarak, who identified himself as the spokesman of Al Madina Regiment, Al Badr Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen outfits, said the militant groups have decided to continue the ban on cable operations in the Valley as ''the Kashmiri youth were going astray because of this''.

He asked the cable operators to wind up their outlets for ''promoting obscenity and vulgarity in the Kashmiri society''.

The spokesman also referred to the Dukhtaran-e-Millat Chief's statement in which she had blamed the government agencies for the ban on cable services in order to divert the public attention from the vital issue of the recently-surfaced sex scandal. ''This does not divert the attention. Instead, this would sensitise the Kashmiri society. We request sister Asiya not to play the role of a militant spokesman and rather mind her own activities while serving the cause of Islam,'' he added.

The spokesman warned the cable operators of a ''fidayeen attack'' in case they resume operations on their own or at the behest of the state government.

Meanwhile, hundreds of cable operators marched to the headquarters of both factions of the Hurriyat Conference here yesterday, seeking lifting on the ban on airing of news and entertainment channels.

The operators met leaders of both factions of the Hurriyat and appealed them to intervene in getting the ban revoked.

''We appeal to the militant outfits to revoke the ban as our livelihood has been badly affected,'' the cable operators said in a statement.

''We assure that no obscene channels would be aired. We want justice...Do not deny the people the right to information which they get through the cable network,'' they added.

The cable operators said they should not be punished for evil deeds of others and demanded lifting of the ban on airing news and entertainment channels.

Earlier on Sunday, a hitherto unknown militant outfit, Al Madina Regiment, warned cable operators in Kashmir to close down their operations with ten days.

A spokesman of the outfit, Abdullah Malik, in a statement to a local news agency, said the group has taken strong note of the growing immodesty in the Kashmiri society.

He alleged that cable operators were airing obscene programmes and asked them to close down their operations in ten days time.

However, the Jammu and Kashmir government later assured the cable operators of complete protection.

An official spokesman, in a statement here on May 9, said it had come to the notice of the State Government that the militants have threatened the cable operators here and asked them not to show news and other channels.

''The State Government has taken a serious note of this and has assured full protection to the cable operators for their normal activities,'' he added.

The spokesman said the police officers concerned have been directed to provide adequate protection to all those cable operators who feel threatened of such militant action.

Despite the assurance, the cable operators on May 10 stopped beaming all news and entertainment channels.

''Many cable operators in the Kashmir valley received threats on telephone to stop beaming of news and entertainment channels. We have done so from this evening,'' a cable operator told UNI here.

Earlier on that day, Ms Andrabi, in a news conference, blamed the ''government agencies'' and those involved in the sex racket for threatening cable operators and beauty parlours in Kashmir.

''No militant outfit has issued any threats to the cable operators or the beauty parlours. They should not lend ears to such threats. It is an attempt to divert the attention of the people from this vital issue,'' she added.

The Hizbul Mujahideen later termed as ''unnecessary'' the ban on the cable network in Kashmir, saying the restrictions have been issued only to divert the people's attention from the sex scandal.

Hizb spokesman Junaid-ul-Islam, in a statement to the local media here, said the people of Kashmir, under the banner of Dukhtaran-e- Millat, would expose the culprits involved in the sex racket.

''The ban issued by militants is an unnecessary step as it has distracted the attention of the people from the sex scandal and other licentious activities,'' he added.

The spokesman said only the private TV channels were highlighting the agitation launched by the people against the abuse.

The Hizb appealed to the militant outfits to immediately lift the ban on cable network and allow the operators to resume services.

UNI

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