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Amid controversy, Govt takes back building housing KPC and the Club ceases to exist

Srinagar: The developments surrounding Kashmir Press Club (KPC) from past few days took a dramatic turn on Monday as the government cancelled the allotment of the building that was housing the Club.

The controversy started on Saturday, Jan 15, when a group of journalists took over the KPC management accusing the incumbent management body ‘of holding to the premises illegally and deferring the elections.’

Interestingly, the incumbent managing body had a day earlier (Friday) announced elections following, what is said, “re-registration of the body under Society Registration Act.”

However, hours after the incumbent body announced elections to be held on Feb 15, the concerned government authorities put the re-registration into abeyance following which, on the next day, a group of local journalists took over the Club and announced an interim managing body.

In the backdrop of these developments, an official spokesman in a statement issued here today said 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 false portrayal of being owner-managers of an entity which is no longer in legal vogue,” said the spokesman.

The spokesman further said that some other members have created an interim body using the same banner suggesting a ‘takeover’, adding, “However, since the original KPC itself has ceased to exist as 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,”.

“…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, an intervention has become necessary,” said the spokesman, adding, “… 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 spokesman further said that 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,” said the spokesman.

It may be mentioned here that several media bodies including Editors Guild of India, Press Club of India, Mumbai Press Club had taken strong note of taking over of the KPC by the interim body.These media bodies alleged that the takeover was illegal and undemocratic as it was done in the protection of police.

… and who will refund our money, say members

Meanwhile, the journalists, who have paid for the registration as fees, here have expressed resentment against the move, asking that who is going to repay their fees after such a decision.

“As the press club has been handed over to the estates department again by the government, let someone tell us, who is going to repay what we have paid since the time the platform was provided to the journalists,” question the journalists.

They journalists have appealed to the government to look into the matter and come up with any favorable decision so that the journalists are not forced to face hardships or else make it clear who is going to repay their fees.

NC, PDP deplore closure of Kashmir Press club

The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference on Monday deplored the forcible takeover and subsequent closure of the Kashmir Press Club, saying the measure is the latest milestone in dismantling all insignias of democracy.

“Government’s order of closing KPC should not be seen in isolation, rather a part of a battery of assaults which started after the illegal abrogation of Art 2370/25 A.This act is just culmination of a policy which started with putting the registration of the club in abeyance and then the forceful takeover. Dropping all pretense the government has finally bolted the club. It is deplorable to see how the government could steep so low to even scavenge the leftovers of democracy in Kashmir. I on behalf of our party condemn the closure of KPC in the strongest possible terms.” Party spokesman Imran Dar said in a statement issued here.

Meanwhile, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday alleged that the crisis in the Kashmir Press Club seemed to be “orchestrated” in order to shut down the institution which had served as a medium for journalists to debate and discuss issues freely.

Her comments came after the Jammu and Kashmir administration said the Kashmir Press Club has “ceased to exist” as it took back the premises allotted to the largest journalists’ body in the Valley following “dissensions” between two factions, one of which had tacit support from the government, a party spokesman said.

“It seems that the coup & its aftermath was entirely orchestrated to shut down another outlet that served as a medium for journalists to debate & discuss their opinions freely. With every passing day all the safety valves to express dissent are being muzzled,” Mehbooba tweeted.

Ultimate goal was to shut down KPC, says ousted managing body

The ousted managing body of the Kashmir Press Club on Monday said the installation of a group of journalists as an interim body was done with the ultimate goal of shutting down the club.

It reiterated that journalists in the Valley will confront “these challenges”.

“It seems the ultimate goal was to shut down the Kashmir Press Club and for this purpose, they tried to install a group of journalists. By this action, they wanted to stifle the voice of journalists that resonated through the forum called Kashmir Press Club, the only democratic and independent journalist body in Valley,” Ishfaq Tantray, general secretary of the ousted body, said in a statement.

“But it is our firm belief that our journalists are capable and professional enough to keep the flame glowing and confront these challenges ahead. I want to reiterate that journalism thrived in Kashmir and it will survive all crests and troughs in the future as well,” he added.

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