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The Kashmir Press Club’s registration was suspended by J&K administration (File)Srinagar: The J&K government has taken over the Kashmir Press Club – the biggest journalists’ body in the Valley – citing a potential law-and-order situation. It has also cancelled allotment of land and buildings, and handed the club and its existing structures to the Estates Department.This comes days after the government suspended the club’s registration citing adverse reports against the management as presented by the police’s CID, or Criminal Investigation Department.That was followed by shocking scenes on Saturday – a ‘coup’ by a group of journalists seized control of the club, allegedly with help from armed police personnel, and set up an illegal interim body.The club was then shut – it had remained open even at the peak of the second wave of Covid cases.Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called it a “state-sponsored coup”.The Editors Guild of India and the Press Club of India both condemned the illegal takeover.In a statement the J&K administration said the club had failed to register itself under the Societies Registration Act and that it had, therefore, ceased to exist.The administration also accused the club and its members of multiple illegalities, including “false portrayal of being owner-managers of an entity no longer in legal vogue”.The administration said it was concerned over an emergent situation after two groups it described as “rival, warring” were said to be using the banner of the Kashmir Press Club.At present (and as per current rules) the Kashmir Press Club ceased to exist, as a registered body, as of July 14 last year. The club’s management team is similarly defunct after its tenure ended July 14.The failure to re-register itself under the Societies Registration Act was compounded by the failure to elect a new management team.Pointing to these facts, and citing reports on social media and from sources, the J&K administration flagged a potential breach of peace and danger to journalists to say its intervention was needed.The administration said it had decided allotment of premises to the now-deregistered Kashmir Press Club be cancelled and control of land and buildings be returned to the Estates Department.A spokesperson said the J&K government remained “committed to a free-and-fair press” and believes journalists are entitled to all facilities, including a place for professional, educational, social, cultural, recreational and welfare activities.”It also hopes that a duly registered bona fide society for all journalists shall be constituted as soon as possible, and the same shall be able to approach the government for reallocation of premises,” the spokesperson said.



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