Jammu & Kashmir L-G’s Swearing-in: Media, Politicians Not Invited
Girish Chandra Murmu being sworn-in as the first Lt Governor of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Girish Chandra Murmu being sworn-in as the first Lt Governor of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.(Photo: PTI)

Jammu & Kashmir L-G’s Swearing-in: Media, Politicians Not Invited

For the first time in Jammu and Kashmir, journalists as well as politicians were not invited to attend the swearing-in ceremony of a top government functionary even as few of them were permitted to interact with the delegation of the European Union (EU) in Srinagar that visited on Wednesday, 30 October.

Media was completely barred at the swearing-in ceremony of the new union territory’s first lieutenant governor, Girish Chandra Murmu, at Raj Bhavan on Thursday, 31 October. While officials at the Directorate of Information said the Raj Bhavan did not want attendance of any accredited or non-accredited journalists or editors, and that no entry passes had been issued to the press, senior police and security officials also maintained that nobody would be allowed towards the venue without the entry pass.

Those who attended the ceremony said that nobody other than a crew from Doordarshan and a cameraperson from news portal ANI was permitted to cover the oath-taking function. 

While Director of Information Dr Syed Sehrish did not respond to phone calls, Commissioner-Secretary in-charge of Department of Information Manoj Dwivedi told The Quint that the two DD and ANI crews were there to supply the news feed to all private television channels.

When asked why the print media was completely barred from attending the ceremony, Dwivedi said, “Director of Information has issued a press release on the swearing-in ceremony to PTI and others who, in turn, would distribute the same among their clients and others,”.

Dwivedi did not take questions on as to why the tradition of inviting accredited journalists and editors had been tossed at this event.

‘Unprecedented’: Journalists Clueless About the Reason

“It’s unprecedented to have no mediaperson be allowed to cover the oath-taking ceremony of the head of the government, state or union territory. Nobody knows the reason”, Shuja-ul-Haq, senior television journalist and president of Kashmir Press Club asserted.

“When, a couple of days back, we learned that the press would not be allowed, we approached senior officials individually and collectively to make it clear that the shift of policy wouldn’t send any right signals to the media. But they all chose to be tight-lipped.”
Shuja-ul-Haq, Journalist

Two senior journalists recollected how local correspondents of PTI, UNI and several newspapers had not missed even the swearing-in ceremonies of former governors like Jagmohan, Girish Chander Saxena and Gen (retd) KV Krishna Rao in the most disturbed years in 1990s. Subsequently, the swearing in ceremonies of chief ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah were crowded with the local, national and international press corps.

Lack of Prominent Politicians at Swearing-In

Interestingly, even the prominent politicians of different parties were not invited to the L-G’s oath-taking ceremony. The only three of them present at the occasion were two Members of Parliament, Jugal Kishore Sharma (BJP) and Nazir Ahmad Laway (PDP), and former Speaker of J&K Legislative Assembly and former Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh.

Sources said that out of the five Lok Sabha members, Dr Farooq Abdullah of National Conference (NC), who represents the Central Kashmir constituency of Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal, had not been invited. He has been detained under Public Safety Act (PSA) and kept under house arrest at his home since 5 August, the day of abrogation of Article 370. 

Farooq Abdullah’s two party colleagues and Lok Sabha members, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, had been reportedly invited. However, neither of them turned up at the ceremony.

Among the two BJP Lok Sabha members here, only Jugal Kishore Sharma (Jammu-Poonch) was present. Dr Jitendra Singh (Lok Sabha member from Udhampur-Kathua and Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office) was absent. Three Rajya Sabha members, namely Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Mir Mohammad Fayaz (PDP) and Shamsher Singh Manhas (BJP) were also absent. A chair had been reserved in the front row for Azad, also a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, but that, of course, remained vacant.

Mir Mohammad Fayaz (PDP) told The Quint that an invitation card had been dropped at his government accommodation in Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar.

“But I learned about it only in the forenoon today. It was not possible for me to reach Srinagar at such a short notice to attend the ceremony,” the PDP Rajya Sabha member revealed over telephone from New Delhi.

Even the BJP’s senior leaders, Ravinder Raina (President J&K), Ashok Kaul (General Secretary Organisation) and Kavinder Gupta (former Speaker and Deputy Chief Minister), who had arrived in Srinagar on Wednesday and Thursday, were not present at Raj Bhavan. Two of them confirmed their presence in Srinagar and said that they had not been invited.

Absence of Media, Politicians Similar to EU Parliamentarians’ Visit

Significantly, none of the prominent journalists or politicians was either invited or permitted to interact with the delegation of the EU parliamentarians on Tuesday and Wednesday. Just three local dailies with circulation in hundreds were invited for the delegation’s press meet at Technical Area of the old airport. Among all regional and national newspapers, none other than the local correspondent of The Tribune was invited.

Srinagar reporters of Republic TV, Times Now, Zee News, Wion TV and ANI and a Delhi-based reporter of Aajtak were selectively invited for the press conference. Only four of them were selected to ask the questions.

Only three prominent Kashmiri politicians and former ministers, namely Muzaffar Hussain Baig (PDP), Usman Majid (Congress) and Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, were invited to attend National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s dinner for the EU delegation in New Delhi.

In Srinagar, two lower-rung Congress leaders, namely Chhani Singh and Farooq Andrabi, were invited for an interaction with the EU parliamentarians. However, the Congress immediately sought an explanation from its leaders for meeting with the members of the delegation without seeking permission from the party first.

(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz.)

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