The Jammu and Kashmir administration, on Monday, sealed the office of a prominent daily 'The Kashmir Times', the Estates Department, J&K. sealed the building
Executive editor of the newspaper, Anuradha Bhasin, alleged that 'the due process of law was not followed' and they served no notices to the newspaper about evacuating the building. Bhasin took to Twitter and called the eviction a 'vendetta for speaking out'.
"Today, Estates Dept locked our office with no 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. How peevish!" Bhasin tweeted, sharing a picture of Estates officials locking the Kashmir Times office at Srinagar's Press Enclave.
Earlier Bhasin had filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India against the communication blackout after the abrogation of Article 370–which gave J&K a special status–in August 2019, seeking direction to the Centre for relaxation on communication blackout in the Valley.
J&K Estates department, however, said that the department only 'took possession' of the buildings allotted to the newspaper's late founder, Ved Bhasin. An official said that the newspaper was served notices to vacate the building; they, themselves, handed the business to the department officials. Bhasin denied these official versions.
Bahsin was evicted from her official residence a few months ago; sealing of the office came later.
Soon after the offices were sealed, politicians and journalists criticised the move. Former CM and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah took to Twitter and wrote "This explains why some of our "esteemed" publications have become Government mouthpieces, printing only government press handouts. The price of independent reportage is to be evicted without due process."
Former CM of the erstwhile state, Mehbooba Mufti, also condemned the move. "Anuradha was one of the few local newspaper editors in J&K who stood up to GOIs illegal & disruptive actions in the state. Shutting down her office in Srinagar is straight out of BJPs vendetta playbook to settle scores with those who dare to disagree." read a Tweet on Mehbooba's Twitter handle.
"Media in Kashmir has been facing the most difficult situation post-August 2019, and yet a few of us continue to fight it. In return, govt uses media policy, jails, summons, terror cases, intimidation to stop free press. It is daily battle to sustain freedom of the press in Kashmir." The Kashmir Walla's editor, Fahad Shah, wrote on Twitter. "A region where truth has been casualty due to abundant lies, false propaganda, maligning campaigns, it is an only free press that plays a significant role. @AnuradhaBhasin_ has been a strong pillar of that press, and today's action by Govt against her is for taking a stand. Shame!" Fahad's Tweet father read.
"In solidarity with @AnuradhaBhasin_ who has been a torchbearer and inspiration to many young journalists. She has never compromised on the truth, sealing her office is an attempt to normalize the attacks on Journalism in #Kashmir" editor of a popular news website from Kashmir wrote.
Committee to Protect Journalists, an international journalist's body, has also condemned the ongoing targeting and harassment of Anuradha Bhasin and the Kashmir Times.
"Authorities must stop trying to silence independent and critical voices and should respect press freedom," CPJ said in an official tweet.
Kashmir Times is a prominent newspaper, based in Jammu and published from Jammu and Srinagar regions of the erstwhile state. The newspaper was first published in 1954 as a weekly later converted as a daily from 1964.