SRINAGAR: After a relative calm between India and Pakistan, the government has closed down the Balti Service from All India Radio Srinagar early this month, Outlook reported.

“The government has shut down the Balti Service that was aired from the shortwave radio transmission of All India Radio Srinagar following the communication from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” Outlook quoted officials as having said.

The report said that the program was a “reach out project” to present the Indian views of the situation in Muzaffarabad, Gilgit and Baltistan regions.  It was only last year when the government started the news bulletins on state -owned broadcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR). Along the news bulletins, weather forecasts of areas like Muzaffarabad, Mirpur and Gilgit-Baltistan had become a regular feature on the two broadcasters.

They further added, “The shortwave was airing only one program, which was of Balti services.”

The report stated that the Ministry of Home under a policy decision started the Balti service program on March 27, 1988, from the shortwave Radio Kashmir Srinagar to counter the Balti language program from Radio Pakistan and Azad Kashmir Radio Trarkhal.  This program catered even the people living in the Kargil region of Ladakh and a small number of scattered Balti speaking people in different parts of Kashmir.

Besides, the original inhabitants of Baltistan, on this side of the divide, they are mainly settled in Kargil with a few Balti families found in Tral, Madar and Papchen villages of district Bandipora and Chanderkot area of Ramban.

Post Kargil war, the All-India Radio Srinagar, on the advice of the Union Ministry and the Defense Ministry, started a ten-minute news bulletin in the Balti language apart from regular twenty minute commentary and to counter it Radio Pakistan Islamabad and The Radio Pakistan Skardu also started to broadcast news in the Balti language

Quoting senior officials at All India Radio Srinagar, the report said the program doesn’t need to be aired from Srinagar. “Balti speaking population is not much in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no fresh talent available in the Balti language.”  The officials added that they have requested the government that if they want to restart the program, they should do it from Kargil. “The government if at all, they want to restart the program and Balti news, they should do it from Kargil station instead of Srinagar station.”

The report added that the closing of the services has come at a time when there is a thaw in India Pakistan relations even after the abrogation of Article 370 and downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories and amid the talk of demilitarization of the Siachen glacier.




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