Radio Sharda links thousands worldwide to their language and culture

Sharda Devi, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom, has her centuries-old decrepit temple still standing across the river Kishen Ganga on Muzaffarabad-Athmuqam Road in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Incredibly, a Luton-based Mirpuri Muslim from the PoK inspired a Kashmiri Pandit (KP) to create something in the name of the Goddess that would never crumble against a conquest.

Earlier this month, Ramesh Hangloo’s Radio Sharda completed a successful year of its operation while operating from its 700-square-foot premises near Muthi — the first settlement of the displaced KPs in Jammu.

During his 2007 cultural visit, Mr. Hangloo learned from PoK immigrant Zulfikar how the Mirpuris had established a radio station near London to keep their community “connected.”

Back home, Mr. Hangloo lost no time in seeking the licence of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for a community radio to keep the over 3,00,000-strong displaced population linked to their language and culture throughout the world.

1990 migration impact

“The migration in 1990 left us bereft of our home and hearth. Soon we realised that we were getting uprooted culturally and linguistically – something that could never be salvaged by our posterity. We desperately wanted something that could keep us connected, in addition to the obituary page of the [well-circulated Jammu-based newspaper] Daily Excelsior ,” Mr. Hangloo told The Hindu .

Founded by him in 1999, Mr. Hangloo’s non-profit Pir Panchal Cultural, Educational, Social, Environmental and Sports Organisation (CESES) became the licensee of J&K’s first Community Radio station in 2011. Radio Sharda finally went on air on April 6, 2012 though Chief Minister did not attend the inauguration and police ignored a written request to provide security for the station.

It has a 14x16-ft studio – a state-of-the-art digital recording facility and standard microphones – a front office and a pantry with a petite washroom. Donated by a Good Samaritan, a noiseless generator lies out on the courtyard of the building leased out by the Jammu and Kashmir government. The 120-foot tall transmission tower has been adjusted on the front.

The staff comprises two recording engineers, one manager, one accountant and one attendant. Anjoo (26), who continues to live at Tral in Kashmir and has completed MBA after her B.A. from Government Degree College of Tral, works as announcer and presenter of most of the programmes. She is jubilant over the fact that Radio Sharda broadcasts more programmes than any of the state-run Akashwani stations in J&K. Radio Sharda runs non-stop on FM 90.4 MHZ from 7.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. It is available round-the-clock in any part of the world on Internet.

The graphics on the Internet are symbolically in Sharda, an extinct script as old as Sanskrit. But Anjoo’s scripts are all in Nastaleeq Kashmiri. “I had Urdu [as] my subject up to Class 12. I picked up Kashmiri fast as almost all of our programmes are in our mother tongue,” Ms. Anjoo said.

In the very first year, Radio Sharda has shelled out its tight “community” tag. “We had begun it for the KPs but a large number of our listeners are now Kashmiri Muslims. While in Jammu, many of the Kashmiri officials and their families listen to Sharda on FM, in the Valley, they get it by Internet. They call us frequently and request the songs of their choice,” Mr. Hangloo claimed while asserting that there was no room for propaganda or political programmes. “Fifteen thousand families listen to us by FM in Jammu city. We have currently a total of two lakh listeners.”

Poets like Prem Nath Shad and Jawahar Lal Saroor participate in Moharram and Idd-e-Milaad programmes. Kashmiri Muslim singers have contributed over 400 Bhajans — 200 of them by Shazia Bashir, a promising female singer from Srinagar. Interestingly, Deepawati Watal and Vijay Malla are the choice of most of the Kashmiri Muslims listeners.

Radio Sharda’s morning show ‘Wangij Wour’ has been conceived on the pattern of Zuna Dab, Radio Kashmir Srinagar’s most popular programme in the 1960s and 1970s. “Mothers and their children listen to it regularly in most of the KPs’ kitchens every morning,” Mr. Hangloo said and narrated how the station had linked thousands of its listeners on Shivaratri. “For the first time, they celebrated Herath together.”

  • Radio Sharda was started for Kashmiri Pandits.

  • It is available round-the-clock on the Internet.