Srinagar, Oct 20: The sealing of Kashmir Times office in Srinagar’s press colony has evoked sharp criticism with politicians, journalists and people from other walks of life extending their solidarity with its Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin.
On Monday, officials of Estates Department sealed the Kashmir Times office.
“We have not received any notice from the Estates Department. Our office has been sealed without serving us any notice,” Bhasin told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS).
In one of her tweets she said, “Estates Deptt locked our office without any due process of cancellation & 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! A govt policy to reserve 5 percent quota of govt accommodation for certain categories including journalists is a matter of right. It would be favour if the journalist chooses to become silent to enjoy the benefits. They can lock the building, not our voice.”
The Kashmir Times is one of the oldest newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir. Two weeks ago, she was also evicted from her official residence in Jammu.
She 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.
The National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have also condemned the move.
“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,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.
PDP president Mehbboba Mufti said Bhasin was one of the few local newspaper editors in J&K “who stood up to the Government of India’s illegal and disruptive actions in the state”.
“Shutting down her office in Srinagar is straight out of the BJPs vendetta play book to settle scores with those who dare to disagree,” she said.
Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party also condemned the sealing of Kashmir Times newspaper’s office.
In a statement, spokesman of the Party said that the action taken by the estates department as elucidated by the Kashmir Times is unjustified. “Not following the procedural formalities the estate department’s action is totally unwarranted and illegal,” the spokesman said.
Apni Party spokesman urged the Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha to intervene into the matter and inquire into the circumstances which have led to shutting down of a prestigious newspaper institution in Srinagar.
CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami alleged that it is nothing but vendetta politics and an attempt to suppress the dissenting voices in the region.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee Vice President and former MLC G N Monga said the BJP government was leaving no stone unturned to muzzle the freedom of press.
Awami National Conference leader Muzaffar Shah said, “Kashmir stands behind Kashmir Times. We are with you Anuradha & Prabodh.”
Journalists in Kashmir have expressed their solidarity with Bhasin.
“There are renewed attempts by the state agencies to throttle Kashmir Times, a respected newspaper in both Jammu and Kashmir regions with a rich history of practicing independent journalism. In its latest move, the government agencies have sealed the paper’s Kashmir office, which would further curtail its publication and distribution in Kashmir. Recently, editor Anuradha Bhasin’s government allotted accommodation in Jammu was also ransacked. We are aware that Kashmir Times, and its editor, has been at the forefront of fighting against government curbs on communications and press freedom in Kashmir, especially post August 5 clampdown last year, when the majority of the local press was found wanting in reportage, choosing silence over speaking truth to power. In view of these government-sponsored intimidation attempts to silence an independent newspaper, we express our solidarity and support to its editors and our colleagues there,” a group of journalists in a statement said.
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 has been quoted by a national daily as said. “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.”