Barely a day after Registrar of Societies and Firms kept the re-registration of the Kashmir Press Club in abeyance, a group of journalist led by Saleem Pandit staged a 'coup,' taking over the reigns of Kashmir's largest press ensemble and revealing along with it, an underlying current of factionalism.
In a statement, the faction led by Pandit alleged that the ad-hoc management of the club was delaying elections for "unknown reasons" while adding that the "headless club" had placed the media fraternity in "unwanted trouble," reported The Telegraph.
“The elected body served its tenure for a period of two years, which ended on July 14, 2021... The club was headless for around six months, putting media fraternity into unwanted trouble.”
Claiming that journalists across the valley had "unanimously decided" to form an interim body of three members on 15 January, the faction headed by Saleem said that it would manage the club till fresh elections are held.
Why Was the Registration Suspended?
Following the abrogation of Article 370, the club had to be re-registered and since this process was pending, elections could not be held for a society that did not exist legally.
According to a document posted by NDTV, on 24 December 2021, the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) of Srinagar had submitted a report with regard to the non-involvement and verification of character and antecedents of the club, following which the Registrar of Societies and Firms in Jammu and Kashmir issued a re-registration certificate to Kashmir Press Club on 29 December.
However, on 5 January, the Srinagar ADM issued another order stating that the club's re-registration clearance was put on hold on the basis of a "report received from SSP CID for SPI DG, CID."
Following this, the Registrar of Societies and Firms in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, 15 January, kept the re-registration approval in abeyance, pending a final report from the Srinagar ADM.
Earlier, the Kashmir Press Club had declared elections on 15 February, but since the new faction has taken over, it is not clear when elections would now be held.
How Was the 'Coup' Staged?
According to Newslaundry, a team of armed paramilitary troops was deployed outside the gates of the Kashmir Press Club on Saturday, amid rumours of a group of journalists planning to meet at the venue to overtake the concern.
Around 1:45 pm, the faction's head Saleem Pandit arrived in an armoured cavalcade, following which he met with editors of newspapers inside the club.
Mood of Kashmir Media
Meanwhile, the old members of the Kashmir Press Club and eight journalist organizations issued a statement urging the Press Council of India and other media associations "to take a strong note of how the local administration is supporting lawlessness and throttling a democratic media body," reported The Indian Express.
Reacting to the unfolding events at the Kashmir Press Club, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said that a certain journalist had benefitted from a "state sponsored coup."
Echoing Abdullah, former Chief Minister and PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti said that the "state sponsored coup at KPC would put the worst dictators to shame."
"State agencies here are too busy overthrowing elected bodies & firing govt employees instead of discharging their actual duties. Shame on those who aided & facilitated this coup against their own fraternity," she added, in a tweet.
(With inputs from The Telegraph, NDTV, Newslaundry and The Indian Express.)