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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Srinagar office of Kashmir Times sealed by the Estates dept

Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of the newspaper, one of the oldest in J&K, was evicted from her official residence in Jammu two months ago.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar | Updated: October 20, 2020 9:39:33 am
Estates officials said they only “took possession” of a house allotted to the newspaper’s late founder Ved Bhasin. (File)

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has locked one of the two properties allotted to Kashmir Times in Srinagar.

Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of the newspaper, one of the oldest in J&K, was evicted from her official residence in Jammu two weeks ago.

Bhasin had earlier filed a petition in Supreme Court against the communication blackout after abrogation of J&K’s special status last August, seeking direction to the Centre for immediate relaxation on communication blackout in the Valley.

“Today, Estates Deptt locked our office without any due process of cancellation and eviction, same way as I was evicted from a flat in Jammu where my belongings including valuables were handed over to ‘new allottee’. Vendetta for speaking out! No due process followed. How peevish!” Bhasin tweeted, sharing a picture of Estates officials locking the Kashmir Times office at Srinagar’s Mushtaq Memorial Press Enclave.

Estates officials said they only “took possession” of a house allotted to the newspaper’s late founder Ved Bhasin.

“They have been allotted two buildings — one is office and the other was allotted as a residence to Ved Bhasin sahib,” Deputy Director, Estates, Mohammad Aslam told The Indian Express. “Since Bhasin-sahib died some years ago, we issued them notices to vacate the house. They themselves handed over the building to us and today our officials went to take possession.”

Bhasin, however, questioned the veracity of the official version.

She told The Indian Express: “We have not received any order or any notice. Some lower-rung officials used to come to our office, verbally saying that the allotment has been cancelled but when we asked for eviction notice, they never provided us. In fact, our staff went to their office, saying if there is any eviction order give it to us… but they weren’t giving. Since we were little apprehensive, we approached the court some four weeks ago.

“They haven’t served any eviction or cancellation notice to us. They have simply locked our office. We haven’t handed over anything to them. Our infrastructure is here, our computers are here, all the machinery and technical things are here, our generators and other equipment are here.”

Bhasin said the building sealed by the Estates officials is the office of Kashmir Times that was allotted to them in early 1990s.

Mainstream political parties condemned the sealing of the Kashmir Times office, calling it “vendetta”.

“Anuradha (Bhasin) was one of the few local newspaper editors in J&K, who stood up to GoI’s illegal & disruptive actions in the state. Shutting down her office in Srinagar is straight out of BJP’s vendetta playbook to settle scores with those who dare to disagree,” former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.

Former CM and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah tweeted, “This explains why some of our ‘esteemed’ publications have decided to become Government mouthpieces, printing only government press handouts. The price of independent reportage is to be evicted without due process.”

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