The authorities have banned newspapers from getting published in Kashmir, by carrying out raids at press offices in the wee hours of Saturday. They seized the papers and even chased employees in order to detain them.
The authorities carried out these acts despite there being no prior communication from their side telling news agencies to stop publishing the paper. This is unlike the curb on the telecommunication services. The police had earlier sent a communication to telecom companies that in view of the prevailing security scenario, internet services should be stopped. Subsequently, the mobile services were also stopped. Only BSNL network is currently in operation. However, a senior BSNL official said that they too have been asked to shut the service.
At around 3 am, Irshad Ahmad Khan, the driver of Kashmir's leading newspaper Rising Kashmir, was heading towards Lal Chowk to distribute the newspapers when he was stopped by the police near the Clock Tower. “The police vehicle was following me from Shiekpora Humhama where our printing press is located," said Khan. "They had also brought along two employees of the press who were asked to identify the vehicle. Once we were at the Clock Tower, they came from the front side of the vehicle and made me stop. They asked me to drive to the Humhama police station where we were made to deposit the newspapers."
Raja Mohuidin, editor of Kashmir Press Service Media Group (KPSMG), said that they footed a loss of over Rs 4.5 lakh. “The printing press office was raided at Rangreth without prior information and newspapers were seized,” he said. Mohuidin said that this is the first time during the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir state that the press offices have been raided. “Earlier in 2010 they had seized the papers from outside,” he said. He added that eight people who were working at his printing press office were detained by police. “Some of the employees who are from outside the state and who are non Muslims were mentally harassed,” he said.
KPSMG, which also owns KT Press, publishes most of the newspapers in Kashmir. “I bring out four newspapers: an Urdu paper, Tameel-i-Irshad; the English paper, Kashmir Age; the Kashmiri paper, Kahwat; and a bilingual newspaper, Imroze. All these newspapers were seized. Police seized 20,000 copies of Tameel-i-Irshad and 15,000 copies of Kashmir Age alone,” he said.
Mohidudin said that they had also printed other main newspapers of Kashmir including Kashmir Reader, Kashmir Monitor, Subah Kashmir, Kashmir Observer, Brighter Kashmir, Kashmir Times and Mission Kashmir, but the copies were seized. “I footed a loss of over Rs 4.5 lakh: Rs 1.5 lakh is the printing loss and Rs 3 lakh is the loss of advertisements,” he said.
The KPSMG editor said that after his employees were detained, he rushed to the police station and tried to contact higher police officials, but they didn’t respond to his repeated calls. “It was a sort of emergency, rather worse than that,” he said.
Mohiudin said that he is not sure whether he will bring out the newspaper. “We represent the Fourth Estate. It is our job to write about atrocities, but the government is harassing us unnecessarily,” he said.