Cigarettes hanging loosely between their fingers, reporters at Srinagar’s year-old Press Club are engaged in tense negotiations ahead of its first election. With its alliances and defectors, planning and intrigue, the press club polls in Srinagar have all the makings of a presidential campaign lacking only the spectacle of a presidential debate.
Polling for 11 executive posts of the 270-member club, the Valley’s first such body, is scheduled to take place on Monday. Apart from the president, vice-president, general secretary and a treasurer, at least seven executive members are to be elected to the panel of the ‘Aiwan-e-Sahafat Kashmir’ or the Kashmir Press Club. In a state where elections are largely marked by massive security crackdowns, the press club elections are generating unusual excitement.
Even though there are no reporters’ associations formally associated with the club, the fight is based on alliances or understandings between various groups. These include the Kashmir Working Journalists Association, the Kashmir Editors Guild, the Kashmir Photojournalists Association, the Kashmir Video Journalists Association, the Kashmir Journalists Association, the Anjuman-e-Urdu Sahafat, J&K and others.
Manifestos promise a range of benefits for members — health insurance and legal aid to journalists to bullet-proof jackets and housing colonies.
Apart from the canvassing, there is also a social media campaign, with candidates and their supporters pushing their posters and agenda documents.
Slogans such as “Our team is less about I, more about we” and “think for all, vote for us” are also splashed across these manifestos. A rally is also scheduled by at least one group campaigning for gaining executive control of the club.
The first year of the establishment of the club saw the arrest of a magazine reporter, the questioning of members of the Editors Guild by the NIA and also the killing of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari.
In these circumstances, the Guild on Monday called for unity among all members.
The club’s premises, at Polo View in Srinagar, were handed over by Mehbooba Mufti administration in January 2018 to an interim body overlooking its functioning.
Meanwhile, at the club, journalists work their phones as cups of tea are poured and plan for the hectic weekend of campaign that lies ahead.