At the launch of the Zindagi TV channel with the motto ‘Jode Dilon Ko’ in New Delhi in 2014, a team people from ZEE were interacting with media persons. Being the first channel to announce the telecast of Pakistani shows for Indian viewers, Zindagi had created a sensation amongst media persons. As part of the Aaghaz-e-Dosti (An Indo-Pak Peace initiative), I was invited to be present in the introductory press launch of the Channel. I remember that during the press meet, a media person asked ‘What if radical elements will oppose your move?’ to which a senior management personnel responded, “Remember, we have already seen such opposition during Sa Re Ga Ma but we continued with that. When we have decided to run this, we will run this.”

ZEE’s decision and the initiative of Zindagi Channel was welcomed by people in India. Despite the risk of bringing something from the so called ‘enemy’ nation, the content had appealed widely to people in India. The serials managed to touch a cord in Indian hearts. I got to know that people also started naming their newborn babies after the names of characters of these serials. Such an acceptance shows the popular, loving and welcoming fabric of India.

On the other side, Indian serials are already very popular in Pakistan. Once, during one of the peace sessions of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, the guest of the session who was from Pakistan told students in India that Pakistanis know about Indian society more than Indians know about Pakistanis. The reason was that almost every Indian TV serial was watched in Pakistani houses and they not only became aware about Indian society through these serials, but also welcomed them and even followed them enthusiastically.

Now, after two years since its start, ZEE Enterprises Entertainment Limited has announced the shutdown of Pakistani programs on Zindagi Channel. The announcement was done by ZEE’s head Dr Subhash Chandra who is also a serving member of Indian Parliament. This announcement came after the Uri attack that claimed the lives of 18 Indian soldiers.

Well, it may be Chandra’s own decision fuelled by spontaneous anger or derived through his alignment with a political party that is understood as one of right wingers, but what actually signaled with this announcement has more meaning and interpretation. Also known as a motivational speaker, Chandra has presented lot of good ideas among society. He regularly motivated people through his sessions and also tweeted about how one should not stop doing things due to fear of failure.

Being a media giant, ZEE has many channels running in India and abroad. Discontinuing just some content on a single channel may not hamper revenue of the group in anyway, but the effect will be more important.

The media has a very important role in society. Its importance lies in the tools of its print and audio visual productions, reach among masses and making things entertaining and newsworthy. The collective power of media houses is strong enough to build an opinion in the country but there are so many more things that the media does. The media helps in inculcating values, breaking stereotypes and facilitating people to know about each other. When Zindagi was started, this power and commitment was utilized. Now today it seems that ZEE is undermining its own efforts.

This channel brought Pakistani serials to India and people accepted it with an open heart. People liked it not because it is from Pakistan, instead because the quality of content was good.

These serials also played a role in breaking stereotypes and misconceptions about Pakistani society and people. It shows the fact that people on both sides are the same and their culture is shared.

Art and music should be allowed to flow without any restrictions. Any relations or conflict between the countries should not hamper relations of people and should not break the bridges of arts and music.

These contents are flow of information that lets people to know about diversity, society and life across border, that also about a country where very few Indians have visited and keep different understanding about the society there. Hence, letting them know is more in benefit to Indians than to Pakistanis.

Also, the move to discontinue Pakistani shows will not affect the Pakistani state or terrorism in any way. It will only break people’s contact and it will only overpower your own decision that you had once given at the time of start of this channel. It will only prove that emotions of hatred, revenge and anger drive you more than love, forgiveness, peace.

Those who are spreading terrorism and hatred are actually those who do not want peace and friendship among people. Their actions are to break the efforts of people and state about bridging the society. Its reply should be through more strengthen effort towards such bridging as it would challenge their motive. In this case, ZEE itself has taken a path that will help motives of terrorism and anti-peace factors.

Also, being a premier business group, Zee must behave in a sense of social responsibility and should not over exercise its powers upon public discourse. It is true that ultimately Zee is the owner of channel and may decide contents, but it cannot be denied that such ownership should not be used to influence the public discourse in a negative way.

We, the people, request the ZEE management, especially to Dr. Chandra, to let the channel continue with its Pakistani content and not to impose their ‘political’ ideology upon this corporate initiative. The Prime Minister of India also expressed his belief in talks and peaceful resolution and even he has not suggested any such moves to restrict Pakistani artists.

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(The writer is Founder member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative)