Centre Strikes Out Kashmir Press Club; A Serious Blow To Democracy

The largest body of independent journalists in the valley, the Kashmir Press Club (KPC), has been permanently shut down and taken over by the Union government. The move is seen as the Centre’s crackdown on the journalist fraternity in Kashmir.

The valley has been in the news ever since the Union government abrogated its special status under Article 370 of the Indian constitution on August 5, 2019. The move took Kashmir’s autonomy and turn it into a Union Territory. Following then, news covering mass detention and human rights abuse against activists and journalists has been frequenting in all corners.

Amid the erosion of freedom of the press in the valley, the permanent shutdown of KPC is yet another blow to human rights.

Earlier, it was declared elections will be held to fill the key posts at the club. The next day, a group of journalists, alleged supporters of the government, muscled into the club along with armed policemen. Following this, they prevented the independent journalists to enter.

Most of the journalists, those who forcibly made their way inside the club, were praised by pro-establishment journalists. One of them, a correspondent for one of the largest newspapers, termed some members of KPC as “jihadists.”

The administration clarified the intervention as a preventive measure for the safety of journalists after reports were coming in from “social media and sources” regarding a potential breach of peach and “law and order situation.”

Pretext Of Dismantling Press Club

Founded in 2018, KPC had been a place to gather, share tips and discuss story ideas. According to a local journalist, unlike other press clubs in the country, KPC provided a space for young and independent journalists to file stories, mostly for international publications.

KPC was due to re-register itself as a society, which was completed in December last year. The process was then put on hold following some adverse reports those were filed by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police. The reports were made based on the antecedents and character of the governing body of the club.

The club’s management is traditionally elected by its nearly 300 members. However, the Centre has been reportedly delaying the election which was due since last year.

Fate Of Journalism In Kashmir

Journalism in the valley had seen its fate on the day when the Centre revoked its autonomy. Security personnel and police had, time and again, ensured making the work of journalists nearly impossible.

While there is a large section of media has fallen prey to the Centre’s motives to be remotely-controlled, many independent journalists refused to fall in line and kept KPC out of the shambles.

As a result, many journalists have been slapped with FIRs and detentions.

The fate of journalism in Kashmir has always remained on the verge of peril, which is only surviving under the defiance of independent journalists to toe the line.

Along with the revocation of KPC, Kashmir is left with no social spaces. There are no human rights bodies, trade unions, or civil society groups present in the valley. The administration has been stalling elections for the Kashmir High Court Bar Association and Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries. Friday prayers at Jama Masjid Srinagar have been discontinued since 2019.

This repression will remain as evidence for further such crackdowns by the ruling BJP on the freedom of speech and dissent.