Summer Unrest echoes in J&K House, Opposition blames Govt for killings, blindings
The J&K Assembly session has unfolded along predictable lines, almost appearing a replication of 2010 session. A united opposition comprising National Conference, Congress, CPI (M) and other Kashmir-based Independent legislators held protests over the killings and blindings during the five-month long unrest in the Valley. The house witnessed raucous scenes, loud sloganeering and furious verbal exchanges between opposition and the PDP and BJP members. In fact, many opposition members repeated the slogans being shouted by protesters during unrest. The opposition even disrupted the Governor N N Vohra’s address.
In his speech, Vohra tried to dispel deep public concerns about some of the contentious issues threatening to once again tip Kashmir into turmoil. For example, he clarified that the West Pakistani Refugees were not being made state subjects and instead ‘Identification Certificates’ were being issued to enable them to get work in the paramilitary forces and other central government establishments. “This identification does not change the status of the West Pakistan Refugees; they continue to be non-state subjects,” Vohra said to address the unease in Valley.
Similarly, putting the doubts on SARFAESI Act to rest, Governor said that even if Banks sell immovable mortgaged assets, they can do so only to state subjects.
The ruckus lasted two days following which the Government on the second day itself took up the discussion on the unrest after the Speaker, Kavinder Gupta allowed the opposition members to move the motion in this regard in the House. In his speech, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah blamed the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for her casual approach during the unrest, also saying that the unrest in 2016 couldn’t be compared with 2009 and 2010 as he hadn’t blamed anybody else for it.
“We did not blame Pakistan or the opposition for the situation. I did not blame my officials in 2010. We made mistakes and I accepted making mistakes while handling the situation,” Omar said in his speech. “You blamed Jawaharlal Nehru, my father, my grandfather and police for militancy in the state. Did you ever blame yourself for your failure to restore normalcy in Kashmir?”
The minister for Social Welfare Sajad Gani Lone thanked BJP for providing his family in Pakistan a visa to visit India. “You didn’t give Visa to my kids for five years but thanks to BJP and Modi who granted me the same. Allah Unko Khushrakhe (God bless BJP),” he said.
Overall, the session so far has played out like a pantomime with both the government and the opposition doing their respective role-playing. In 2010, the PDP was enacting exactly the same role as is being played by the NC now. Then the NC was issuing justifications of almost similar import for the killings of 120 youth as PDP does to justify around 100 killings and several hundred blindings in latest uprising. In fact, Mehbooba has so far evaded the Assembly. She is, however, scheduled to speak on January 9 and defend her government’s response to the summer strife. However she has left nobody in doubt as to the position of her government on the issue blaming it on the separatist groups and Pakistan.
“The situation has been such for almost 70 years. We don’t want that 2010 or what happened last year should repeat now. We are trying to start the development process in Kashmir which couldn’t be taken up during summer,” Mehbooba told reporters at a function in Srinagar.
Unlike when they are held in Valley, Assembly sessions in Jammu are generally a low-key affair. And a part of the reason is that none of the two pre-eminent political outfits in the state, NC and PDP, sees the province responsive to the contested issues that raise temperature in Valley. But this session has turned out to be an exception. The Opposition has tried to keep the focus on the unrest and the killings so as to prevent an immediate political recovery for PDP-BJP coalition. However, Valley has been largely indifferent to the proceedings in the Assembly, in part because both PDP and NC are seen morally equivalent in terms of their record in governance.
“Both parties have done the same thing. Killing people in power and grieving in opposition,” said Abdul Razaq Mir, a resident of downtown Srinagar. “Whatever is happening in Assembly is nothing but drama”.