Jammu and Kashmir Assembly today witnessed unprecedented violent protests by opposition members who asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to clarify her stand on her remarks on Article 370.
The agitated opposition members belonging to National Conference and Congress damaged furniture and uprooted mikes from the desks in the Assembly.
As the House assembled this morning, Leader of the Opposition Omar Abdullah sought clarification from Speaker Kavinder Gupta on whether he had checked the records of the proceedings connected with the Chief Minister’s statement and expunged her remarks on Article 370.
“I want to ask whether you have expunged the remarks. Have you gone through the records,” Omar asked. “When will the chief minister give her statement on the floor of House to clarify her stand on her remark. At what time she is going to give her statement,” he questioned.
The Speaker said he has gone through the records and the chief minister did not mean what has been said over her remarks.
On this, National Conference and Congress trooped into the Well of the House, raising slogans against the government and the Speaker, demanding that the chief minister make a statement on the floor of the House.
Some of the members were seen protesting on the tables and furniture and mikes were uprooted during the protests. Chairs were thrown, papers were torn and thrown in the Well as anti-government, anti-BJP, anti-Speaker and anti-RSS slogans were raised. Some of the members virtually came close to clashing with Lal Singh, a minister of the ruling coalition, however, the marshals and watch and ward staff prevented it. During the violent protests, one watch and ward staff is reported to have been injured.
The Speaker adjourned the House for half an hour as it became difficult to continue the proceedings. Speaking to the reporters outside the House, Congress Legislative Party leader Nawang Rigzin Jora said, “We had raised the issue of the chief minister’s remarks and its clarification yesterday and the speaker had told us that we have expunged it but later retracted by saying it has not been expunged.”
“The speaker is enacting a drama in the House. He should make up his mind whether he has expunged it or not. What does he want. Does he want to run the House smoothly,” Jora said. Jora said on Wednesday Omar had asked in a very quite and peaceful way whether the CM’s statement has been expunged.
“The speaker tried to hoodwink us by giving a confusing statement saying that the CM did not mean what has been attributed to her in the statement…It is part of the record of the House. Please come out with the record of the proceedings and see what she has said and then talk about it. The speaker should not give his interpretation,” he said.
The protests took place because the speaker ignored the opposition’s demand. The clashes was triggered because one of the ministers used abusive words against a member of NC which cannot be tolerated. Speaking to the reporters, CPI(M) MLA M Y Tarigami condemned the violent protests and said it should have not have occurred as it sends a wrong message about the House. He said the issue was not created by the opposition but by the government itself.
“There is a stand of BJP on Article 370 and the chief minister had spoken about it in her statement. BJP had objected to it and the speaker passed remarks on it. We were only demanding that the chief minister should come to the House and clear her position on the issue,” he said. But instead, the government failed to respond to the opposition’s demand, resulting in protests, he said.
BJP MLA Ravinder Raina condemned the opposition’s behaviour and termed it as unfortunate. “It is very wrong on the part of opposition to behave like this in the House where they have come after being elected by the people to make laws, raise issues and undertake assurances from the government on development and ensure peace, progress and brotherhood in the state,” he said.
“If the lawmakers will create such a situation, there will be nothing more unfortunate in a democratic set up. If you do not agree on any point, you can debate, discuss but should not resort to throwing chairs, breaking furniture, uprooting mikes and beating marshals,” Raina said. Independent MLA Hakeem Yaseen said, “I don’t approve of violent protests but the government is responsible for creating such a situation…opposition wants to run the House and government should reply to the demand that the chief minister clear her stand on the issue.”
“It is unfortunate that such a thing has happened. It is condemnable,” Education Minister Naeem Akhter told reporters. “Breaking chairs, attacking staff and uprooting mikes is not expected from the lawmakers particularly when some of them are senior members and many time ministers. There is no such example of this kind of behaviour in the history of Assembly proceedings,” Akhter said.
(With PTI inputs)