Guest Post by Prabodh Jamwal
Two of Kashmir’s leading newspapers, Kashmir Times and Rising Kashmir said that Jammu and Kashmir police raided their office on Saturday night, seized their printed copies and arrested their employees – a clear act of choking and gagging media in crisis-hit Kashmir valley. Copies of other newspapers, including Kashmir Reader and Kashmir Observer were also seized and their circulation prevented.
According to Kashmir Times, over 20 policeman raided its office at Rangreth area in Srinagar outskirts at midnight and arrested its printing press foreman Fayaz Ahmed and ten other employees.
“The Policemen seized the metallic printing plates of Kashmir Times and more than 70,000 printed copies of Kashmir Times and closed down the K T Press Pvt Ltd printing press,” the newspaper said.
“Cops misbehaved with the employees present there and snatched their cell phones. The employees who tried to resist were beaten up by the policemen,” the newspaper said.
Another leading newspaper, also said that police raided its printing press at 2 am, seized its printed copies at midnight and detained persons.
Police also seized copies of another leader English daily Rising Kashmir early this morning and raided its press at Sheikhpora (Budgam).
“A police party from Budgam police raided the press to seize the copies of Rising Kashmir and other publications,” the newspaper claimed. “As the staff had left after printing the copies, police took into custody all the employees including its Foreman Mohammad Yousuf and asked him to identify the distribution site.”
They later reached Press Enclave and seized the vehicle alongwith the driver. “They caught hold of me in Press Enclave and asked me to follow them to police station” said Irshad Khan, the driver.
The staff was later taken to Police Post Humhama where they seized all the copies of the newspaper. “The staff of the press was let off later on but only after being harassed and intimidated,” the newspaper said.
The employees were to go on their own to their offices and press on foot when no transport was plying operating on the road and security personnel were not allowing people to move in view of severe curfew restrictions.
The government has already suspended mobile internet and telephony services across Kashmir valley.
At least 41 persons have died in Kashmir valley since July 9 when widespread protests and clashes which erupted after the killing of top militant commander Burhan Wani.
It is pertinent to point that in 2010 and 2013, valley based newspapers were not allowed to be published by placing severe restrictions on their movement and movement of their vehicles. The newspapers were seized and not allowed to be a circulated and media persons were not issued curfew passes.
Similar methods of intimidating and gagging the press have been employed by the government and its security agencies in the last two and a half decades.
In 2010, the central government arbitrarily stopped the release of DAVP advertisements of Kashmir Times and six other publications, following a letter circulated by the union home ministry to the department. Till date, Kashmir Times is the only newspaper which continues to be denied advertisements, which is the main source of revenue.
Prabodh Jamwal is Editor, Kashmir Times and Senior Vice President, Kashmir Press Association