Saturday, May 28, 2022

Kashmir Times Office Sealed, Editor Alleges Persecution

The Srinagar office of the paper was operating from government accommodation allotted to it in 1993-94.

Kashmir Times Office Sealed, Editor Alleges Persecution
Kashmir Times Office @AnuradhaBhasin_/Twitter

Authorities Monday sealed the office Kashmir Times at Srinagar’s Press Enclave. The prominent English daily is headquartered in Jammu and is published from both Srinagar and Jammu.

“Estates Department locked our office without any due process of cancellation and eviction, the 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,” tweeted Anuradha Bhasin, editor of the daily.

Bhasin said the persecution is part of the suppression of the media in J&K since August 5, 2019. “Criminal charges pressed against media persons, regular summons, harassment, even beating media persons or evicting them from govt. accommodations have become the norm,” she said.

In August last year after the revocation of Article 370, Anuradha Bhasin moved the Supreme Court and sought the lifting of the communication blockade that was hampering the publication of newspapers in the Valley. Later, the Apex Court ruled that freedom of speech and expression and freedom to practice any profession over the medium of the internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1) (a) and Article 19(1) (g).

“Last year in August when I went to court against the communication ban impeding the functioning of the media, the state government stopped all advertisements to Kashmir Times. Despite financial constraints and hardship, we continued to maintain our independence by reporting uncomfortable truths and critiquing the government actions and policies in our editorial and comments,” Bhasin told Outlook.

“We continue writing on the government policies and action and give as much coverage to events happening in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said. “In Kashmir, there is a whole atmosphere of suppression of the media and many other journalists are facing the worst form of harassment and the present action is in line with that,” she added. Since the Covid-19 spread in March the paper had stopped both the editions in Jammu and Kashmir. Later, when the paper started reviving, it started with Jammu edition as it was not financially equipped to resume both editions. The paper was about to resume the Srinagar edition just before the office was sealed.

Bhasin said that a few weeks ago, she was evicted from a government flat allotted to her in 2000 without following any due process of serving her any cancellation and eviction notices. “Locks to my flat where I was not staying was broken and the "new allottees" were given charge of the place along with my belongings including valuables and important documents that have still not been given to me,” she said.

On October 19, she said, Kashmir Times’ Srinagar office— functioning in a government accommodation allotted to Kashmir Times in 1993-94 like all other newspaper offices in the Press Enclave area —was similarly locked without following due process. “All our office infrastructure including computers, printers, generators etc are locked inside to disable us from resuming our print edition in Srinagar,” she added.

“We had heard rumours from the lower-rung staff of the Estates Department that we were being evicted. But despite contacting the officers, we did not receive any response. We petitioned the Deputy Commissioner's court where the hearing has taken place but an order is pending,” she said.

A senior official of the Estates Department said the allotment was in the name of late Vaid Bhasin and they had communicated to Kashmir Times that the allotment would be cancelled. He said the process for the same was going on for the past six months. However, Anuradha Bhasin said the Estates Department never conveyed the same to Kashmir Times. She said there was a dispute over it and the building was not transferred in any other name.