News, entertainment, communication: TV becomes channel for messaging in Kashmir

With landlines, mobiles and internet connections blocked, television channels have become a mode of communication in Kashmir for people in the Valley and also for those elsewhere in the country and abroad. From the anxious to the prosaic, the messages on local cable channels and regional channels of national news channels with viewership in the state are varied. Some want to know about the wellbeing of their kin inside the Valley, some post they are fine and others use the medium to pass on information. The number has come down sharply after the Jammu and Kashmir government put into action about 300 public calling offices (PCO) for people, but messages are still coming in steadily on channel helplines, a private channel official said. Pooja Mishra from Lakhimpur in Assam posted a message on a channel wanting to know about her brother, who works with the Army and is posted in the state. Pinki from Uttar Pradesh asked her friend Basit in Charar-e-Sharief how he and his family were doing. There are many messages about marriages, simply communicating that the function will now be performed in Khaled from Kupwara, who is studying in Bangalore, told his family he is fine and also asked them to send his books through his sister when she travels later this month. The messages are not limited to people residing in country. There are also posts from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Kuwait, informing and inquiring about safety statuses. Several students studying in Bangladesh posted messages about their safety. Its all free, channel officials said. According to a News 18 Urdu official, thousands of messages from different parts of the country and abroad have come in. We have a particular number in Hyderabad. People send the messages through WhatsApp and we use them on the ticker, he said. There has been a virtual communications blackout in the Valley since August 5, when the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmirs special status. It has also announced the bifurcation of the state into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.