Till about three years ago, Umar Nisar, a 17-year-old from Tral, a non-descript town in south Kashmir, did not know what a computer looked like. Children here, he says over the phone, are more familiar with curfews than touch screens. “I had only heard about it. But I was curious to know more, so I joined a basic computer programming course at Tral institute in 2014.”
Within no time, local boys from the area started approaching the teen, a Std X student of Government High School Midoora, asking him to fix their laptops. “I became popular as the geek in my circle. My ability to solve tech glitches instilled confidence, and I felt I had the potential do more,” says Nisar, the son of a tractor driver who owns a small apple orchard.
After burning the midnight oil to read about different kinds of software and how to create apps on his father’s android phone, Nisar has developed an online radio application, Pannun FM International, the first of its kind in the state. “Most of the content generated right now is to do with Kashmiri and Bollywood music,” he says. In the 24-hour service, Nisar has included segments where people from across the Valley can share their problems with civic authorities including electricity problems and water woes. “We get experts on board who can dole out advice,” he says. While a majority of listeners are youngsters looking for career advice, a good percentage are seniors who want to listen to Kashmiri music.
For Nisar, setting up the radio is a way of diverting people’s attention from the conflict they live with. “I realise there is a lot of talent in the youth, but no platform to showcase it. So, recently a friend bagged first position in painting competition at school; I recorded his interview and then played it on FM.” With no cinema halls or recreational centres, residents of the Valley seem to be lapping up the new content. The user base in the past three months has jumped from 1,000 users to close to 10 lakh. “We have listeners from America, Delhi, Pune and Mumbai. I have updated the application thrice till now.”
Nisar says the reason for launching an online radio station was the low frequency in Tral.
The team hopes to launch a segment on relationships, where the youth can discuss their love lives. “We are a conservative society, so it was safer to launch musical programmes first. But we’ll start a love segment soon.”