Press statement on refusal of Delhi Press Club to hold press meet on fast by Yasin Malik

May 5, 2013

from Committee for Release of Political Prisoners

We, the undersigned, wish to express our outrage at the manner in which the Press Club of India canceled the booking of the Press Conference called to condemn the illegal detention of Yasin Malik and the refusal to allow the fundamental right of democratic protest to Kashmiris (families of victims of “disappearance” and those languishing in jails over years) at Jantar Mantar today. Under the clear instructions of the Indian State, the Press Club officials (themselves journalists) canceled the booking for the Press Conference at the last minute. The officials used the language of the state by branding it ‘anti-national’ which again is the language of the Indian State to justify the suppression of all dissenting voices. This is the first time the Press Club of India canceled such an event at the venue in the name of ‘protecting sentiments’. Further, the officials, along with the Delhi Police and right wing organizations gathered at the venue, bodily pushed and heckled Vara Vara Rao and others attending the Press Conference.

Vara Vara Rao said to the press, “Today, while Jantar Mantar has been shut for the democratic right to protest, now even the Press Club of India has been shut to our fundamental right to freedom of expression.” He added, “The Press, which is supposed to be the fourth pillar of democracy, has fallen prey to the control of the Indian State, its Police force and the right wing organizations.” In light of this, we see the clear collusion of the Indian State, the Police, and the right wing forces to suppress all voices of dissent. Aam Aadmi Party cadres were seen holding placards wearing party-caps along with many other right wing organisations and did not allow this press conference to take place.

The press conference was called in protest of the arrest of Yasin Malik as well as the denial to express the anguish of hundreds of Kashmiri families through the democratic means of protest in the form of a two-day hunger strike at Jantar Mantar. These Kashmiri families have been victims of persecution as members of their family have either been the target of forced disappearances or have been languishing in Indian jails for many years and in some cases even decades. Not only were the democratic right to protest and their demand the for the release of these political prisoners denied, these families are also being harassed by the Delhi Police, threatened with arrest, surrounded and detained by the police force.

We strongly condemn the decision to cancel the booking at the Press Club of India by the Press Club officials, the Delhi Police under the instructions of the Indian State.

SAR Geelani, Vara Vara Rao, G N Saibaba and others.