Still no newspaper in Kashmir, death toll 44

The Kashmir Valley had to go without newspapers on Tuesday despite the end of the three-day ban imposed by the authorities to quell the unrest that has claimed another life.

The government’s decision to lift the ban came too late on Monday for printing the next day’s edition, sources said, adding the newspapers editors association would take a final call on publication on Tuesday.

The state government was widely criticized for censoring media following a week of violent unrest after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, a local young man, was killed in a gunfight with security forces on July 8. Cable and internet services were also hit.

A teenage girl injured in firing in Churat Qazigund in South Kashmir a day earlier died Tuesday morning. Two people were killed on Monday evening in retaliatory firing after protesters threw stones at an army patrol. The killings take the death toll in ongoing protests to 44 even as curfew continues across the Valley.

Talking to NDTV on Monday night, Amitabh Mattoo, who is the political adviser to Mehbooba Mufti, said the gag order didn’t have the chief minister’s approval.

The ban, he said, was imposed without the chief minister’s knowledge. The statement contradicted a government spokesman who had on Saturday confirmed the ban. Senior minister Nayeem Akhtar had told HT the “undesirable step was taken to ensure peace”.

Srinagar-based newspapers have not been printed since Saturday when copies were seized during midnight and early morning raids by police.

Mattoo said “heads will roll” once it was known “whoever locally took the decision to ban newspapers in Kashmir”.

Reports said senior superintendent of police of Budgam, the area where the raids took place, has been transferred. HT, however, couldn’t independently confirm the news.

Mattoo’s statement is not the first time that chief minister’s office has claimed being in the dark about recent developments in the state.

Earlier, officials had said the CM did not know about the gunfight in which Wani was killed. The claim was refuted by former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who said CMs are always kept informed about every encounter involving high-profile targets.

Abdullah reacted to Mattoo’s claims in the similar fashion.

“Miscommunication”. If that is all it was why did it take 48 hours to correct?’’ Abdullah tweeted.

“If you needed an admission that NO ONE is in charge in Srinagar at the moment you got it from the advisor to the CM.”