The use of media in engendering religious consciousness in Kashmir can be illustrated by the role that pamphlets, cassettes, electronic media and internet played over the last two decades. The paper tries to look at the problem with the background of the discourses on Media and Religion by using works of James W. Carey, Anthony Giddens, Victor Turner, Stewart Hoover and Stig Hjarvard.
To popularize the reformist cause, Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah set up the first press in Kashmir, the Muslim Printing Press, launching two weeklies, al-Islam and Rahnuma, to broadcast the views of the Deobandis and to combat what were seen as the un-Islamic practices of the Kashmiri Muslims. He also translated and published the first Kashmiri translation of and commentary on the Quran, so that ordinary Kashmiris could understand the Quran themselves, rather than having to depend on the custodians of shrines for their religious instruction. While scholars like Barbara Metcalf and Francis Robinson have recognized the importance of print in the Islamic academies of 19th century colonial India, no scholarship have been undertaken to study the role of print in relation to Islam in Kashmir. Francis Robinson attributes the rise of Islamic Protestantism, where scripturalist revivalism rejected many aspects of traditional Islamic practice with the adoption of print by Muslims in South Asia (Metlcalf, Robinson, 2000).
In the past two decades as the political Islam has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the world, Indian administered Kashmir has not been immune to such experience. Mohammed Ishaq Khan, noted Kashmiri historian, on Islam in Kashmir, points out to the vast body of writings of 1990’s in the Urdu press of Srinagar on the several themes connected to political Islam. All these themes bring media, religion and real politic in concert (Khan, 1994). The link between Protestantism in Islam goes hand in hand with deployment of several media’s. In case of Kashmir, there is a linear pattern in using media for shaping religion from starting of first printing press to the modern times.
Over the last twenty years, we are experiencing the exposure of first generation of Kashmiris to mass media in the form of TV, internet, publishing, printed tracts. This is the first generation grown up with mass marketing and demographic targeting of modern advertising. Significant proportion of attention has been paid to the question of religion by using varieties of mediums.
With few exceptions, scholars of media have more than often treated religion and media as separate spheres or entities. Hent de Vries, in the essays in Religion and Media (de Vries and Weber 2001) extrapolates from Jacques Derrida’s contribution to the specified volume which argues that communication media and religion are both mediations, both bridging the interior and exterior, though in different ways (de, Vries and Weber, 2001). But this has not been the case with the studies dealing with Muslims and media in South Asia, where there has been too much of segmentation in dealing with this question. The proposed study will try to contemplate the coming together of religion and the media in the spaces of social and cultural practice.