In Kashmir After 370, RJs Struggle To Find The Right Words On Air

Smita Sharma
2019/11/09: A resident walks along a snow covered road while holding an umbrella during the heavy snowfall in Kashmir. 

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir ― Irfan, who requested his real name not appear because he fears retaliation, is a popular Radio Jockey (RJ) at a leading FM station in Srinagar.  But a half shuttered down upscale cafeteria is where he has been spending his time since 5 August, the day the Narendra Modi government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) special constitutional status. Unlike in his office where he could tune out of the grim politics of the Kashmir Valley through interesting conversations and music, conversations in the cafeteria inevitably lead to discussions on the difficult weeks and months which have followed the government withdrawing the Article 370 of the Indian constitution. 

His radio station has been playing music since 5 August, but the RJs were taken off the air amid the internet clampdown and media censorship in the Muslim-majority valley citing security concerns. 

“We basically work in the entertainment industry, but if you crack jokes right now you will be mocking the society. Once you come to the station, you take the microphone, you see people around you and feel the mood. The mood right now is grim. But you also cannot be silent as you are in a job where you have to make people smile,” said Irfan, explaining his predicament. 

His show on romantic relationships ended a few months ago after it was targeted by hardliners. 

But you also cannot be silent as you are in a job where you have to make people smile.

When you say nothing at all

For the past few years, Kashmiris have loved tuning into four prominent private music stations ― Mirchi, Red,Tadka and Big FM.  

Some prominent RJs talk about a wide range of issues including female infanticide, women empowerment, even taboo subject of incest and domestic sexual abuse, on their shows. But now, while Red and Big FM have their RJs back on air since mid November, there is an unspoken number of Do’s and Dont’s when RJs go on air keeping in mind the political situation and the...

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