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Dharshana TV: a new voice for Kerala Muslims

It was clear when the so-called "Love Jihad" controversy hit the headlines that there was no effective voice projecting the Muslim point of view. Almost all the other channels come alive when it comes to criticizing the Muslim community. Dharshana is believed to be a remedy for such challenges.

Satyadhara Communication Private Limited of Samastha Kerala Sunni Students Federation (SKSSF), the youth wing of Samastha Kerala Jam’iyatul Ulama (EK faction) is all set to start “Dharshana Television,” the first satellite TV channel of Muslims in the state of Kerala. Dharshana, a full-time entertainment channel, is more likely to start broadcasting this year. The project has already got the approval of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

The channel, reportedly, will air programmes, non-news and current affairs from the historic Malabar region sticking to the moral and religious ethics. Panakkad Syed Sadiqali Shihab Thangal, the chairman of the Satyadhara Communication Private Limited, in a press conference on October 26, 2009, had said that they were planning an infotainment channel keeping religious and moral values in mind. “Good documentaries and knowledgeable discussions will be aired; it also will air historically important films and serials,” Thangal had said. The SKSSF will be in charge of the programmes being aired.

Though the channel was likely to start broadcasting from April this year, the process has still not been completed. Last year the company had taken a studio complex in Delhi and a three-storey building to construct a studio in Calicut on lease. The primary work such as the infrastructure for distribution and other procedures which had begun last year itself have been completed. But the process is being delayed due to some financial and technical issues. However, the company is trying to start airing either this August or September. It will have regional offices in Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi and also an area office in Dubai to coordinate activities in the Gulf countries.

Ismail Kunjhu Haji, chairman of the Muscat Sunni Centre and Siddiq Faizy Valakkulam, the former state vice-president of SKSSF, are the Managing Director and the Chief Operating Officer of the channel respectively. Several NRI businessmen and traders are on the board of directors. Dharshana will be the first channel based in Malabar. There are several Muslim newspaper offices in Kozhikode but it has no TV channel as all the other Malayalam channels are based either in Kochi or in Thiruvananthapuram.

Though the initiation has been widely appreciated, it is still an anxious issue whether the channel can project an unbiased image sticking to the common interests of the community irrespective of ideological differences. The company has claimed that it would be an independent channel without any political affiliation. But reports indicated the entrepreneurs were associated with the Indian Union Muslim League which is deeply rooted in the ideologues of Samastha. Its chairman himself was Muslim Youth League leader and son of former party Chief late Panakkad Syed Muhammadali Shihab Thangal. Besides, IUML Kerala General Secretary P K Kunhalikutty had announced after a party meeting early this year that it would soon launch a TV channel from the state.

However, it was a need of the time as the community has been experiencing the lack of a broadcasting media to project its perspectives in front of the society when it is hit with certain issues. It was clear when the so-called “Love Jihad” controversy hit the headlines that there was no effective voice projecting the Muslim point of view. Almost all the other channels come alive when it comes to criticizing the Muslim community. Dharshana is believed to be a remedy for such challenges. But the Samastha which has been running around “Fiqh Mas’alas” to decide on its ideological stand, itself will have to come out of its conservative dogma to live up to the expectations of the common man. It has also been noted that there are people inside the organisation who oppose the plan. They say that once it starts broadcasting it will have to air un-Islamic programmes which eventually will lead to a total chaos. However, the project is a challenge for those who have decided to go ahead and they will have to handle it with all the care at their disposal.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2010 on page no. 7

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