'Vendetta': Indian authorities seal English daily Kashmir Times' offices 'without due notice'

20 Oct 2020


People stand outside Kashmir Times' office, which was sealed a day earlier. — Photo courtesy Anuradha Bhasin's Twitter account
People stand outside Kashmir Times' office, which was sealed a day earlier. — Photo courtesy Anuradha Bhasin's Twitter account

The administration of occupied Kashmir has sealed the offices of a prominent English daily, Kashmir Times, the paper's executive editor Anuradha Bhasin said in a tweet on Monday night.

Bhasin said that the administration had sealed the Kashmir Times' offices in Srinagar "without any due process of cancellation and eviction", just like she herself was evicted from her apartment, which was located in the Jammu region.

According to Scroll.in, Bhasin had been evicted from her apartment two months ago. In her tweet last night, Bhasin said that her "valuables were handed over to the 'new allottee'" by the Estates Department when she was evicted.

"Vendetta for speaking out! No due process followed. How peevish!" she tweeted.

Speaking to Kashmir Reader, Bhasin said: “There was no technical reason on which the office could have been sealed. However, it was due to me speaking up for press freedom. We are going to fight it.”

Officials of the Estates Department, however, said that there were two buildings, one of which was the Kashmir Times' office, while, another was "allotted as a residence to Ved Bhasin sahib", according to Indian media outlets. Anuradha is a daughter of Ved Bhasin — the founding editor of Kashmir Times.

“Since Bhasin sahib died some years ago, we issued them notices to vacate the house. They themselves handed over the building to us and today our officials went to take possession,” the department's deputy director was quoted as saying.

Bhasin denied the Estates Department's version, saying that the officials had "simply locked their office" without any prior notice.

“Some lower-rung officials used to come to our office, verbally saying that the allotment has been cancelled but when we asked for eviction notice, they never provided it to us," she told The Indian Express. "In fact, our staff went to their office, saying if there is any eviction order give it to us [...] but they weren’t giving [it].”

She further said that the equipment, including computers and other infrastructure, was locked up in the office as well. Bhasin added that the paper will approach the court over the matter.

Kashmiri politicians and leaders condemned the closure of the offices. Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of occupied Kashmir, said that Bhasin was "one of the few local newspaper editors in [occupied] J&K who stood up to Government of India's illegal and disruptive actions in the state".

"Shutting down her office in Srinagar is straight out of BJP's vendetta playbook to settle scores with those who dare to disagree," she tweeted.

Kashmiri leader Omar Abdullah, in a tweet, said that the development "explains why some of our 'esteemed' publications have decided to become government mouthpieces, printing only government press handouts".

"The price of independent reportage is to be evicted without due process.'

The move was "denounced" by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as an "intolerable attack on the freedom of the press".

Responding to Bhasin's tweet earlier today, the chief of International Human Rights Commission, Muhammad Shahid Amin Khan, also expressed solidarity with the newspaper. He further said that the IHRC "strongly condemns the act of government for this vendetta".

He also urged the world community to "raise [its] voice for media freedom in [occupied] Kashmir".

The clampdown on media reporting in occupied Kashmir by the Indian government has been under limelight since August last year, when New Delhi stripped the region of its special status. The Committee to Protect Journalists had last year noted that "journalists [weren't] able to report" from the region due to Indian government's restrictions.