Vohra’s speech disrupted, ‘sack Lal Singh’ slogans reverberate, Rashid quite vocal too
By A Aalim Ahmad
Srinagar: The opposition National Conference walked out of the joint session of the legislature addressed by Governor NN Vohra demanding the sacking of forest minister Lal Singh, who allegedly threatened Muslims belonging to the Gujjar community in Jammu of 1947-like consequences. The Governor’s inaugural speech was continuously disrupted by Awami Ittihad Party legislator Sheikh Rashid who questioned the Governor’s appointment and raised issues on human rights and threats to the demography of the state.
The joint session of the legislature was held at Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Complex (SKICC) auditorium situated at the banks of Dal Lake amid tight security arrangements. The latest legislature complex constructed in 2007 did not have enough space to hold a joint session.
As Governor Vohra began his address, NC and Congress legislators stood up and began shouting slogans against the coalition government. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was conspicuous by his absence and his party flock was led by senior legislator Ali Mohammad Sagar. The NC legislators trained guns at forest minister Chowdhary Lal Singh and demanded his immediate sacking, and arrest. “Lal Singh ko arrest karo. Lal Singh to barkhast karo,” the NC legislators shouted.
They demanded security for the Muslims of Jammu region and described Lal Singh as an anti-Muslim and anti-social minister.
Lal Singh has been mired in controversy after he allegedly threatened a delegation of Gujjar Muslims last week while reminding them of the horrors of partition in 1947. The minister later “clarified” that he actually mentioned the soaring temperatures in the region that was misconstrued as his reference to 1947.
The NC legislators also shouted slogans against the government’s failure to revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in the state. “Bashan nahi, ration chahiye (We need food, not lectures),”the NC legislators shouted. The Governor’s address remained mostly inaudible as the sloganeering and Engineer Rashid’s interruptions dominated the auditorium.
Rashid shot back at almost every sentence the Governor uttered during his half an hour speech. “You are not an elected Governor. You are a non-state subject. We must have an elected Sadr-e-Riyasat to head the state,” Rashid said.
He also questioned the genuineness of the Sarai Bala encounter, in which two youngsters were killed by police and passed off as militants. “Even if they were militants, they could have been arrested and sent to jail. What was the need to bump them off?” he asked.
He said that the government was involved in the killing of policemen in Srinagar recently. “You issue statements claiming Burhan is alone and there is no militant in Srinagar. This evokes a reaction,” he said.
Rashid waved a banner in the auditorium with a question on the outcome of the probe into the Handwara killings. “What happened to the magisterial probe in Handwara killings?” he shouted. Rashid stood near Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and several times reminded her of speeches she had made on self-rule. “Now we are ruled from Nagpur. This is what we have achieved from your self-rule,” he said.
Congress legislators, led by Nawang Rigzin Jora, also shouted slogans against the coalition government but they later calmed down and listened to the Governor’s address.
Lone CPM legislator MY Tarigami told Kashmir Reader that he “does not attempt” to disrupt the Governor’s address due to “sanctity associated with it”.
Government spokesman and education minister Naeem Akhtar said that the opposition members’ sloganeering was part of the democratic process.