It was a historic occasion as Jammu station of All India Radio completed seventy
years of broadcasting recently. The radio station which since its inception
has been the main provider of news, information and culture for the majority of the
people of Jammu and adjoining areas, including PoK, was set up on December
1st, 1947. Lalit Gupta takes us through its 70 years of public service
The post-Independence cataclysmic events such as forced occupation of a part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir by Tribal Raiders followed by large-scale killings, loot and arson, lead to the signing of the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh on October 26th, 1947, which fully endorsed by Sheikh Abdullah completed the State’s irrevocable integration with the dominion of India.
Unable to reconcile with the reality, Pakistan, apart from the military raid of 1947, mounted a virulent anti-India propaganda through a strong network of radio stations like Lahore and Peshawar.
It was Maharaja Hari Singh who had felt the need to set-up a Radio Station, to fight the enemy on the psychological front and to effectively counter the malicious propaganda as well as misinformation and rumors. Further, the Radio Station was to also act as an information tool to help and guide thousands of refugees by restoring their confidence.
Jammu Radio Station (RKJ) was inaugurated on December 1st, 1947 by Maharaja Hari Singh in presence of the then Union Home Minister, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel who had planned to have a radio station in Jammu. Started as a makeshift arrangement, Jammu Radio Station operated from three classrooms of the Government Ranbir High School. The first announcement came on air at 6.30 pm when Maharaja Hari Singh addressed the people of the State. The Radio Station at Srinagar was set-up at Polo Grounds and the station was put on air on July 1, 1948.
The name Radio Kashmir was purposefully chosen to give an impression that the station was indigenously manned and operated by the people of J&K and whatever they feel, was being broadcast in its exact format and version. This was done more-so since Pakistani media was operating its programmes through `Radio Azad Kashmir’.
When RKJ started its operations, everything was broadcast live. There is no recording of the initial years available with the station. The local artists and singers were hired and brought inside the hurriedly set-up studios to face the mikes and to counter the Pakistani propaganda through ballads and typical Dogri songs. “One of the songs which were all-time famous during those days when Pakistani tribal raiders had attacked Kashmir, was a ‘qawwali’ in Dogri ` Qabali Maare Iyan, Bhiddan Maarne Jiyan’, meaning Qabalis (raiders) are to be killed like small fries”.
To run the station, on-spot recruitments for the production team included Patanjal Dar, Inder Sain Kohli, Krishna Bhasin, Shamboo Nath as announcers, and Thakur Poonchi and Rudra Bhatt as Translator/Broadcasters. Yash Sharma, Bodh Raj Sharma, and Jatindra Nath were booked as artistes while Rajindra Nath Gupta was appointed as a copyist.
RKJ had the privilege of having well known Urdu writer Rajinder Singh Bedi as its officer–in charge from January 3rd, 1948. He was followed by V.S.N. Camphor and then by eminent journalist, B.P. Sharma. In 1954, All India Radio took over the administrative control of Radio Kashmir. Those who served as heads of the Station were N. Iqbal Singh, Pratap Krishan, Mohammad Yusuf and P. Mathur. B.P. Sharma was the first to assume responsibility of a Station Director on March 8th, 1966.
RKJ’s initial transmission was for duration of three hours with the rural programme for 20 minutes and news for 30 minutes. The programmes from AIR Delhi were being relayed for 30 minutes daily. Later, a 15-minute programme over Radio Kashmir Jammu was also added, in which general announcements, particularly for the benefit of refugees coming from Pakistan were being carried out.
Gradually along with propaganda programmes, the Station also started programmes for women, children, and rural listeners. With dramas and music becoming an integral part of the transmission, RKJ not only informed the local population but also became the sole source of entertainment for them.
Community Radio Sets
Since the general masses could not afford to purchase radio sets of their own, radio sets were purchased by State Government and issued for the community listening in various parts of Jammu and Srinagar. The process continued from 1948 to 1950 and 56 Community radio sets were installed in different places like Jullahaka Mohalla, Mohalla Ustad, Kachi Chawni, Chowk Chabutra, Rehari, Mast Garh and Parade Ground in Jammu city. Sets were also fitted at Samba, Janglot, Parol, Khakyal, Hiranagar and Kathua city, Akhnoor, Poonch, Sunderbani, Mangal Dai, Darhal, Thanna Mandi, Budhal, Arian Klethar, Ujan, Saron, Rajouri town, Doda, Kishtwar, and Bhaderwah.
The Golden Years
During the 1950s to 1970s, RKJ with its reach across all parts of the Jammu region and even beyond enjoyed unprecedented popularity amongst the rural as well as urban masses. Such was the lure of the radio that all talented persons in fields of theatre, literature, and music, with artistic temperament, taste, imagination, broad cultural interest and ability eagerly joined AIR Jammu.
Listeners’ love for radio programmes was stirred up through quality programs which had popular stock characters like Fatehdin Shah Ji, Ralley Shah in Punjabi Program, Janki and Shanti Behn in Women’s Programme, Chaudhary Sahib and Master Ji in Rural Program, Didi and Jumman Mian in Children’s Program which had become household names.
The Noor Din series, written by gifted Mehmood Ahmed and acted by the best artistes, was eagerly awaited by listeners. Everybody seemed glued to radio sets to enjoy the highly entertaining comedy dramas. Another program by Baldev Chand and Krishan Dutt, the Goga-Lachhu series again acted by the same duo and written by Krishan Dutt, enjoyed tremendous fame and reception from the audience not only during those days but are still liked by people whenever they are repeated.
The programs like Nakkara, which highlighted public and social issues, achieved a tremendous popularity. Senior officials of the State administration used to listen to this daily programme to keep themselves abreast of the problems faced by the people. Other popular programs include Radio Doorbeen and Subhaprabhat.
Drama section of the station grew and enriched itself under the guidance of Jitender Sharma, Vishnu Bhardwaj, and C. Parwana. Veteran drama artistes like Prof Rita Jatinder and J. C. Bharti, Uma Mahey, L D Shashtri, fondly recall the great satisfaction and the thrill of staging live dramas.
In the music section, the contributions of Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma, Pritam Singh, and Raj Narain have been noteworthy. Well-known people who remained associated with Radio and helped in its growth were Ganesh Dass Sharma, Krishan Smailpuri, Bodh Raj Sharma, Ram Kumar Abrol, Rajinder Gupta, Rama Langer, Adeline Ruhi, K.S. Madhukar and others. Singers like Vimla Devi, Girdhari Lal Pant, Gulam Mohammad and Party, Mast Ram, Man Mohan Pahadi, Praduman Singh, Anita Sharma, Seema Anil Sehgal, Anupama Sharma have also contributed a lot towards the popularity of Radio Jammu. Yash Sharma, an eminent Dogri poet remained announcer with Radio Kashmir Jammu for many years. Rita Yusuf, Madhavi Sharma, Ravi Kant are other noted announcers.
RJK and Renaissance
Radio Kashmir Jammu has played a pivotal role in the preservation and revival of Dogri and other languages like Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Gojari, and Pahari. From the very start, the Station has continued to provide platform and much wanted recognition to folk artists through regular broadcast of folk songs like bhaakhan, geetru, karakan, baaran, bheintaan. Had it not been the patronage of Radio, folk music of the region would have vanished. In fact, to be able to sing in a radio program is still considered to be a landmark achievement for any professional or amateur musician/singer.
Same holds true for modern Dogri writers and poets who consider RKJ as their first benefactor as it provided them opportunities to read their latest literary creations such as short stories, poems or essays on Radio so as to reach to the maximum listeners. Some prominent Dogri writers who have remained associated with RKJ and contributed in the growth of Dogri prose and poetry through Radio include, Ram Nath Shashtri, D. C. Prashant, Ved Rahi, Pradhuman Singh, Krishna, Prof Madan Mohan Sharma, Padma Sachdev, Ved Kumari Ghai, Om Goswami, Champa Sharma, Chanchal Sharma, Shiv Nirmohi, Chhatrapal, and others.
After 1970, there has been a great leap forward in the programming pattern. Programmes in many other languages like Gojri, Bhadarwahi, Pahari were introduced. Regional News unit was set up in 1971 and the first bulletin in Dogri went on AIR on December 9th, 1971. Gojri bulletin was introduced in 1980. The “Yuv-Vani” service of Radio Kashmir Jammu came into existence to cater to the aspiration of the young. Programmes on family welfare, agriculture, science, school broadcasts and broadcast for teachers were also introduced. Recently a Programme in Mirpuri has also been introduced. The ‘Gandhi Katha’ in Gojari is the latest attainment of RKJ.
The Station has seen growth under many dedicated station directors and sons of the soil who in their own right were also well-known scholars, writers, poets and musicians, such as Ashok Jerath, Jatinder Udhampuri, V K Sambyal.
From a humble beginning in 1947, the station today has witnessed a manifold increase in activity and generation cum transmission of programme content. The transmission timings have been increased to 21 hours per day. Primary Channel of the station now beams programs on 300 KW-MW transmitters. A DRM transmitter was installed to further augment its services. The Yuv-Vani Channel has now been shifted to FM. RKJ is keeping itself abreast of the changing needs and technology of broadcasting. The Commercial Broadcasting Service, the third channel, started broadcasting programmes of Vividh Bharati in the year 2000. Another milestone was set by Shubhprabhat fame.
Programme Executive Anjali Sharma, after taking up the responsibility of Station Director RKJ, fulfilled the long pending demand of citizens of Jammu by starting announcement of RKJ in Dogri, and RKJ became first Dogri Radio Station in the world from 2013.
Latest equipment like CD players and phone–in–equipment have been installed. Radio Bridge and phone-in-programs are regular features during elections and the budget session of Central Govt. as well as of the State.
With a sanctioned strength of 216 staff, in all cadres, and 19 casual announcers, AIR Jammu is also supported by and 555 registered talented local artistes in the field of music and 303 in drama.
Apart from being a major cultural center and culture content generator of the state, the Jammu Radio Station has bagged six national level Akashvani Awards for excellence in broadcasting. RKJ which like other AIR stations in the country has come alive with programs like Prime Minister’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’, is continuing with its efforts in nation building to the satisfaction of its stakeholders, i.e. the people of India and State. .