By A. Aalim Ahmad
Srinagar: A scuffle broke out in the legislative assembly on Friday as disruption, shouting, and heated tempers flew at the very start of the day’s work. Opposition members accused the government of “state terrorism” and when even in the chaos Speaker Kavinder Gupta continued business as usual, several legislators tried to reach the Speaker’s chair to ransack furniture and records, prompting the marshals to push them back.
Eventually the opposition legislators staged a walkout, carrying banners they had brought of “Stop State Terrorism” and waving newspapers. They shouted slogans against the PDP-BJP alliance, demanded punishment for Handwara killers, and the repeal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and National Food Security Act (NFSA).
The opposition legislators several times encircled education minister Naeem Akhtar when he attempted to reply to their questions. Ministers were able to answer only a few questions but their voices remained inaudible in the ruckus.
Two legislators of the National Conference (NC), Abdul Majid Larmi and Altaf Kaloo, made several abortive attempts to break the security chain put up by marshals. They were targeting the speaker’s chair to ransack records and furniture.
Congress legislative party leader Nawang Rigzin Jora led the sloganeering while Kargil legislator Asghar Karbalae was at the forefront to demand arrest of Handwara killers. The NC’s Ali Mohammad Sagar, Davinder Rana and Mohammad Akbar Lone also remained on toes to raise issues related to NFSA and AFSPA.
Whenever a minister began speaking, the agitating legislators raised their voices to overwhelm his. Public distribution and consumer affairs minister Zulfikar Ali attempted to convince the legislators of the government’s intention to hold a discussion on NFSA, but it had no impact.
Parliamentary affairs minister Abdur Rahman Veeri accused the agitating legislators of playing to the galleries. “It is unfortunate that some legislators who have been senior ministers in the past are creating commotion. They have no interest in public affairs. They only want to play to the galleries,” Veeri said.
This prompted Sagar to launch a fresh salvo. “RSS sarkar ko ek dhakka aur do,” he shouted and the slogan reverberated in the house. After an hour-long agitation inside the well of the house, the opposition legislators walked out. Omar Abdullah, who was watching the din from his chair, joined the walkout.
But Engineer Rashid, who had started the protests, did not leave the assembly. “I am not going to leave. They are birds of the same feather. First they (NC, Congress) were killing people and these (PDP) were protesting. Now the PDP is killing and they are protesting,” he said.
“If they (NC) had punished killers of 120 people (during the 2010 agitation), their protests would have been trustworthy,” Rashid said.
‘Mehbooba ji, yeh qatil hai’
When forest minister Chowdhary Lal Singh was asked to answer a question on the Hangul breeding center at Shikargah Tral, he was shamed by opposition legislators. “Aap ko baat karte huey sharam aane chaahiye,” an NC legislator shouted at him but Lal continued to answer the question. Then, former speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone tuned towards Mehbooba Mufti and said, “Mehbooba ji, yeh qatil hai. Isko aapne kabeena mein kaise rakha? (He is a killer. How did you take him in the cabinet).”
Lone was referring to Lal Singh’s controversial remark that Gujjar Muslims of Jammu could meet the same fate as they did in 1947, when Muslims were butchered en masse in Jammu. Singh later “clarified” that his reference to 1947 was to the soaring temperatures.
By A. Aalim Ahmad