Following sharp groupism and Saturday’s ‘coup’ by a section of journalists, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday took over the Srinagar press club and cancelled the allotment of the ministerial bungalow to the club. The estate’s department has been ordered to take control of the premises at Srinagar’s Polo View.
The opposition and journalists have described the step as an “unwanted intervention” of the government.
A statement issued on behalf of the administration read; “In view of the unpleasant developments and dissensions between various groups of journalists, it has been decided that the allotment of the premises at Polo View in view of the now deregistered Kashmir Press Club be cancelled and control of land and buildings situated at Polo View Srinagar which belongs to the Estates Department be reverted back to the said Department”.
The club witnessed a ‘coup’ on Saturday with a group of members removing its ad-hoc body and taking over the control with alleged help from armed policemen. The controversial takeover took place a day after the Jammu and Kashmir government suspended the registration of the club citing adverse reports by Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of J&K police.
The administration’s statement said; “The government is concerned over the emergent situation which has arisen due to the unpleasant turn of events involving two rival warring groups using the banner of the Kashmir Press Club”.
“The factual position is that KPC as a registered body has ceased to exist and its managing body too has come to a legal closure on 14 July 2021, the date on which its tenure came to an end. In its failure to register itself under the central Societies of Registration Act, further compounded by its failure to hold elections to constitute a new managing body, some individuals of the erstwhile club have been committing illegalities on several counts, least of which are a false portrayal of being owner-managers of an entity which is no longer in legal vogue”.
“Meanwhile some other members have created an interim body using the same banner suggesting a ‘takeover’. However, since the original KPC itself has ceased to exist as a registered body, the question of any interim body is rendered infructuous. In these circumstances, issuing of notices and communication by any group using the rubric of erstwhile Kashmir Press Club is illegal”.
“Meanwhile, the rival groups have been leveling various allegations against each other also with regard to the use of the premises belonging to the estate’s department that was being used for the legitimate use of the members of the journalistic fraternity. In view of this aspect of the dispute and in view of the reports in social media and other sources indicating a potential law and order situation including a threat of breach of peace and the safety of bonafide journalists, the intervention has become necessary”, the statement read.
“The government is committed to a free and fair press and believes that journalists are entitled to all facilities, including a place for professional, educational, social, cultural, recreational, and welfare activities. It also hopes that a duly registered bona fide society of all journalists shall be constituted as soon as possible and the same shall be able to approach the government for reallocation of the premises”, the statement added.
Mehbooba Mufti had tweeted; “state-sponsored coup at KPC would put the worst dictators to shame. State agencies here are too busy overthrowing elected bodies & firing govt employees instead of discharging their actual duties. Shame on those who aided & facilitated this coup against their own fraternity”.
CPI(M) secretary, Ghulam Nabi Malik expressed serious concern over the events unfolding at Kashmir Press Club. Malik strongly criticized the administration for an unwanted intervention in the institution of the fourth estate while appealing to the warring factions of journalists to sort out their differences amicably and without any external interference.