ON THE FIRST DAY OF OCTOBER 1939, All India Radio—AIR in the colloquial—formally inaugurated its ‘External Services Division.’ It was a time of great opportunity and grave danger; a time of uncertainty and upheaval. Germany was on the rise, World War II had just begun, and the Allied Forces needed a counterbalance to Axis-power propaganda in some of the geographies we now know, funnily enough, as the Axis of Evil. The first ‘service’ this division performed was a broadcast in Pushtu, to whip the errant Pashtuns into line.
Independent India quickly picked up the thread. The 1950s and 60s were good times for breaking free in Africa and Asia, and Nehru was no south-south slouch. The very first mission entrusted to the External Services Division by its new management was to bolster the Mau Mau uprising in
what is now Kenya. Spearheaded by Apa Pant, independent India’s first envoy to then British East Africa, AIR launched a Swahili service in 1953 that would flagrantly side with the rebels.
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