Eighteen leading intellectuals, including the BBC’s iconic voice from India, Sir Mark Tully, have written a letter to the editor of The Guardian, pleading for the continuation of broadcast of the BBC’s Hindi service.
“We are astonished at the news that the BBC management has decided to stop transmission of BBC Hindi radio on short wave from 1 April.
“For nearly seven decades BBC Hindi radio has been a credible source of unbiased and accurate information, especially in times of crisis: the 1971 war, the emergency in 1975, the communal riots after the demolition of the Ayodhya mosque in 1992.
“Today India is facing other serious problems: the ongoing conflicts in Kashmir, in the north-east and in vast areas in central and eastern India, where Maoist militants are fighting the state.
“Ten million listeners in India – most of them in rural and often very poor areas – need BBC Hindi radio and the accurate, impartial and independent news it provides.
“BBC Hindi transmissions are accessible in rural and remote areas and, as short-wave receivers can be battery-operated, they are available in places without electricity or during power cuts; they are an essential source of learning for schoolchildren and college students in rural India preparing for competitive exams; and they cannot be silenced in times when democracy is under threat.
“We strongly urge the UK government to rethink its decision to severely cut the funding for the BBC World Service to enable the continued transmissions of BBC Hindi on short-wave radio.”
The signatories are Sir Mark Tully, broadcaster and author; Gillian Wright; Arundhati Roy, Booker Prize winner; Vikram Seth, author; William Dalrymple, author; Ram Guha, historian; Kuldip Nayar, journalist and columnist; Amjad Ali Khan, musician; Inder Malhotra, journalist and columnist; M.J. Akbar, editor, India Today; Sam Miller, journalist and author; Sunita Naraian, environmentalist and editor, Down to Earth magazine, New Delhi; Kiran Bedi, reformist and the first woman IPS officer of India; Tessa Hamblin, director, rehabilitation, Indian institute of cerebral palsy; Swami Agnivesh, anti-slavery activist; Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court lawyer; Dilawar K. Singh, financial adviser (defence services), ministry of defence; Neelima Mathur, foundation for responsible media, New Delhi, India.