SRINAGAR: Women attending a women empowerment function at the SKICC on Tuesday raised pro-freedom slogans and protested the presence of the chief minister in a fresh embarrassment for Mehbooba Mufti. The protesting women told reporters that they were invited to the function on the promise of free gas connections.
About 15,000 women from all districts of Kashmir were invited by the Jammu and Kashmir State Rural Livelihoods Mission (JKSRLM) through self-help groups that works for the empowerment of women. “We were told that we will be given free gas connections and training at Bakshi Stadium Srinagar, but we were brought here (SKICC) to participate in this event,” an elderly woman from Khan Sahib, Budgam, said.
Witnesses of the scenes said that the women started protesting at the gate of the SKICC (Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre). They refused to enter the SKICC saying they had been brought deceitfully here.
“We had been called for an UMMEED (NGO) function, and not told that Mehbooba will be here,” said an angry lady who was among hundreds of women who left the venue raising the slogan, “Hum Kya Chahtay Azadi (What do we want? Freedom).”
Witnesses said that as soon as the groups of women were brought to SKICC in government vehicles, they began shouting pro-freedom slogans. At noon, when Mehbooba arrived at the function, a group of women stood up from their chairs and, raising pro-freedom slogans, threw chairs in the air. The event was cancelled after that. Mehbooba was taken into a separate room when the protests intensified. Later her guards formed a chain around her to escort her out of the SKICC.
After Mehbooba’s departure, chaotic scenes were witnessed for many hours. Some women fainted, too, and many of them were rushed to hospitals.
Mehbooba later told media that women had come to the event in large numbers and probably they panicked when a lady fell unconscious. “I hope this programme is organised again,” she said.
Rural Development Minister Abdul Haq Khan, whose ministry organised the function, did not respond to repeated calls from this newspaper.