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J&K govt disbands, takes control of Kashmir Press Club: ‘bid to stifle voice’

Reacting to the government's move, the elected body of the Kashmir Press Club said the aim of the government was to shut down the club and "stifle the voice of journalists in Kashmir".

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar |
Updated: January 18, 2022 10:09:17 am
Outside Kashmir Press Club on Monday. (PTI)

Days after the J&K administration put on hold the re-registration of the Kashmir Press Club, it moved to take control of the premises, citing a “potential law and order situation” and saying the club “ceases to exist as a registered body”.

Reacting to the government’s move, the elected body of the Kashmir Press Club said the aim of the government was to shut down the club and “stifle the voice of journalists in Kashmir”.

The club, which has over 300 members, has been shut since Saturday, when a rival group of journalists barged in and declared themselves to be the “interim body”.

In an official release on Monday, the J&K administration said, “The factual position is that KPC as a registered body has ceased to exist and its managing body too has come to a legal closure on 14 July 2021, the date on which its tenure came to an end.”

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“In its failure to register itself under the central Societies of Registration Act, further compounded by its failure to hold elections to constitute a new managing body, some individuals of the erstwhile club have been committing illegalities on several counts, least of which are false portrayal of being owner-managers of an entity which is no longer in legal vogue”.

After the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the government had asked the club, a registered body, to seek re-registration under the central Societies of Registration Act. While the club applied for re-registration in the first week of May 2021 and the Registrar of Societies issued it on December 29, a fortnight later, on January 14, it was put in “abeyance”, citing a report from the J&K Police’s Criminal Investigation Department.

The government release on Monday, however, made no mention of why the re-registration was revoked or the delay in the process.

Ishfaq Tantray, general secretary of the elected body of the press club, said, “It seems the ultimate goal was to shut down the Kashmir Press Club and for this purpose, they tried to install a group of journalists (who barged into the premises on Saturday). By this action, they wanted to stifle the voice of journalists that resonated through the forum called Kashmir Press Club, the only democratic and independent journalist body in the Valley. But it is our firm belief that our journalists are capable and professional enough to keep the flame glowing and confront these challenges ahead. I want to reiterate that journalism thrived in Kashmir and it will survive all crests and troughs in the future as well”.

Reacting to the government’s movie, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “It seems that the coup & its aftermath was entirely orchestrated to shut down another outlet that served as a medium for journalists to debate & discuss their opinions freely. With every passing day all the safety valves to express dissent are being muzzled.”

The official release went on to say, “Rival groups have been levelling various allegations against each other, and also with regard to the use of the premises belonging to the Estates Department that was being used for legitimate use of the members of the journalistic fraternity,” said the release. “In view of this aspect of the dispute and in view of the reports in social media and other sources indicating a potential law and order situation, including a threat of breach of peace and the safety of bonafide journalists, an intervention has become necessary… It has been decided that the allotment of the premises at Polo View in view of the now deregistered Kashmir Press Club be cancelled and control of land and buildings situated at Polo View Srinagar which belongs to the Estates Department be reverted back to the said department”.

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