The reality behind the closure of “Kashmir Press Club “

By Shahid Rashid (Sr Journalist)

The Kashmir Press Club, located in Srinagar, a city known as the paradise on earth, has been closed for the past few days, but now the local government has taken over the club building and announced the cancellation of its allotment.

Although a notice has been posted at the Kashmir Press Club’s head office that the club has been shut down due to increasing cases of corona virus,
On this serious issue kashmir press is divided, some journalists are calling the club’s closure an attempt to gain control over it.
Kashmir journalists and some social circles are calling the closure of the club an attempt to curb freedom of expression. while another section of kashmir press is calling it a healthy step taken towards the betterment of Media community in kashmir which is facing several problems.
It may be recalled that Kashmir Press Club had been facing a crisis for the last several days.
On 14th January a section of journalists came to the club and announced that they would take over the management and administration till the next club election.
Muhammad Saleem Pandit, head of the interim committee, had assured on the occasion that elections would be held to form a new governing body of the club but no date had been fixed for it.
It’s pretend to mention here that the Club’s governing body, which came into being as a result of the July 2019 elections has condemned the move by Saleem Pandit and his associates.
The former club management is of the view that Saleem Pandit and his associates have forcibly taken over the press club at the behest of the government while security forces have also been deployed around the club.
On other side the interim committee, headed by Saleem Pandit, insists that local police officers have been deployed outside the club to enforce the corona SOPs.
Saleem Pandit said that the governing body elected in the year 2019 elections had lost its right to run the affairs of the club and it was postponing the elections despite the completion of its two-year term.He further said that Journalism and journalists are in trouble in Kashmir.
Why the new election of the club could not be held?
Former president Shuja-ul-Haq Thakur says that the new election of the club could not be held on time because the concerned department was late in re-registering the club.
According to him, in December 2021, after receiving a letter from the relevant body regarding the re-registration of the club, new elections were announced in mid-February 2022.
According to Shuja-ul-Haq, on January 15, the club received another letter from the Registrar of Societies asking for its re-registration to be postponed. Therefore, it obstructed the election.
He alleged that the delay provided an opportunity for government-affiliated journalists to take over the club.
But critics say’s the club’s governing body, led by its president, Shuja-ul-Haq, remained in place despite its expiration date and failed to form an interim administration to run the club until new elections were held or to take club members into confidence.?
The seizure of the Kashmir Press Club has provoked strong reactions from journalists in Kashmir and beyond.
Editors Guild of India, Press Club of India (New Delhi), Mumbai Press Club and Delhi Union of Journalists have expressed concern over the presence of armed police inside the club.
Journalist organizations demand that the club be immediately restored and re-registered.
Some political parties have also condemned the incident that took place at Kashmir Press Club on 14th january
Former Chief Minister and President of the People’s Democratic Party Mehbooba Mufti has termed it as an action of the state government.
Referring to the presence of police officers in the press club, Mufti said that it reflected the fact that Kashmir was in its grip.
Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister and vice-president of the National Conference, criticized Saleem Pandit in a tweet, accusing him of bowing to any government. In Jammu and Kashmir, ‘UAPA’ is an attempt to stifle the voice of journalists, Omar Abdullah added.
Accusing Politicians the interim committee headed by Saleem Pandit in its response to the criticism and allegations of the politicians said that the intervention of these politicians was unnecessary.
He said that Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were trying to create confusion among the journalists for their political gains.
Shahid Rashid is a Senior Journalist and Editor New State Reporter. He is also the Spokesmanand Convener JK Media Guild an Association of Newspapers Editors of JK UT.