India has banned broadcast of Pakistani television channels in the part of Kashmir it administers, a move which has been described as "cultural aggression" by separatist leaders, news reports said Thursday, reported the dpa.
"As per the orders given by the government of India we have directed cable operators to block all Pakistan-based television channels," Sheikh Aijaz Iqbal, a government official in Srinagar, capital of northern Jammu and Kashmir state was quoted as saying by the IANS news agency.
The banned channels include PTV, Geo television, ARY and Aaj. All these channels, which are free to air, were being broadcast by local cable operators to their subscribers in the state.
The ban order drew flak from separatist leaders as well as locals.
"Blocking of these channels is cultural aggression. This is part of the psychological operation by the Indian government," Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the separatist Hurriyat group told the IANS.
"Kashmir has religious and cultural links with Pakistan and it is unethical to ban all Pakistan TV channels," he said.
Common people also felt that the ban order was arbitrary.
"When the entire world is shrinking because of free access to information, how can you ban any television channel? It looks like the ban order was imposed arbitrarily," said Muzaffar Ahmad, a professor.
Kashmir, a disputed region between India and neighbouring Pakistan, has witnessed the deaths of more than 40,000 people - civilians, militants and security forces - in secessionist violence since 1990.
New Delhi has accused Islamabad of aiding and abetting Kashmiri militants, a charge Pakistan denies. Islamabad said it supports the Kashmiris' legitimate aspirations for freedom.