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Indian state will launch community radio stations to counter rebels

jharkandPolice in the Indian state of Jharkand plan to launch at least a dozen community radio stations in order to combat the influence of Maoist rebels in the southeastern wing of the country.

“Maoists have exploited the resentment among locals in the countryside over the lack of basic services,” The Times of India quotes an officer in the area saying. “They have carried out effective propaganda against the state government to win the loyalty of locals. We plan to win back locals’ support through this initiative.”

I am not surprised at this development. It is an idea that has been in discussion for at least six months. Back in July The Hindu newspaper proposed launching a gaggle of community signals to counter Maoists in the neighboring state of Chhattisgarh.

Radio Rights WatchAn NGO representative working on media issues in Jharkand told The Times that stations will:

“cater to the needs of locals. These will also be developed and conceptualized in local languages to reach out to the masses. The stations will be set up at protected areas to ensure Maoists are not successful in taking over the radio stations and spreading their own propaganda.”

India seems to be cultivating a bipolar attitude towards community radio, a comparatively tiny sector in the country’s media landscape. On the one hand the government is distrustful of the service, going so far as to require these stations to submit mp3 files of their broadcasts plus security clearance forms, then presenting reports to India’s parliament on their possible “misuse.”

On the other hand, faced with the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency, which despite its relatively small number of combatants (no more than 10,000) has spread across at least nine Indian states, the government is all gung-ho to license community signals. What a difference a Little Red Book makes . . .

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