Former chair, PCI, PB Sawant has criticised Press Council of India’s move to back the media clampdown in Kashmir, calling the PCI’s reasons an unfortunate justification.
PCI had asked permission from the Supreme Court to intervene in the petition filed by Anuradha Bhasin, editor of Kashmir Times. This petition filed by Anuradha Bhasin demands the end of the communication blockade in Kashmir post abrogation of the Articles 370 and 35A. PCI said the media clampdown is in “national interest” backing the media clampdown in Kashmir, claiming it to be necessary to “protect the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.”
In his statement to The Wire, he said that he disagrees with the step undertaken. PB Sawant is a former Supreme Court judge and former chair of the PCI. “I heard members of the PCI have opposed this decision and that the chairman, in his own capacity, has approached the SC. But in any case, whether he alone approached the SC or acted as PCI chairman, this justification of the [restrictions] on the media is unfortunate,” he told the Wire.
Justice Sawant told The Wire that the decision was not just unethical, it was illegal. He said that the Government of India needs the consent of a constituent assembly for it to scrap Article 370, without which it would be null and void.
“The government of India needs to take the consent of the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir prior to taking any decision on Article 370. Without the state assembly’s consent, [scrapping] Article 370 is illegal. The article remains intact,” he told The Wire. He feels that this move would alienate Kashmiris even more. Claiming that we have put what Pakistan was trying for years, on a plate, he asserted that this single move was enough to unite all Kashmiris against Indians at once.
He opposed the clampdown on journalism in the state, saying they are unjustifiable, and information is a right that you cannot take away from the people. “You are suppressing the voice of Kashmir that is heading to tragedy. And it will only aggravate. Even opposition parties are not allowed to visit the state as the government knows the step it has taken is illegal.”
He then questioned the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s claims of abrogating the Article for development. He told The Wire, “This statement is ludicrous, as development could have been done without scrapping Article 370. Development cannot be done without the participation of the people. Now, nobody will be part of development. The argument of development is not tenable.” He then cautioned everyone, “I fear – and all Indians should fear – that this suppression of the people with force will push [them] towards extremism. Though currently, it looks all calm, it’s the calm before the storm. It is still not too late to take political steps to restore the confidence of the Kashmiris in the interest of the country.”