Stormy legislature session in Kashmir

Srinagar: The killings by security forces during the current unrest in Kashmir Valley, which started after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commader Burhan Muzaffar Wani alongwith two of his associates in south Kashmir on July 8 last year, prevailed over the first week of the Budget Session (2017-18) of Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature that began in the winter capital Jammu early this year.

As members of both the Houses assembled in the state legislature on the first day of the session (January 2), legislators from the ruling PDP and opposition National Conference locked horns. While some National Conference legislators wore black aprons to protest the killings, other lawmakers from opposition parties carried placards that read “Punish Guilty, Stop Killings and revoke Public Safety Act (PSA).”

Commotion broke out in the legislature as the Governor N N Vohra addressed a joint sitting of the legislature on the first day. The protests and disruptions by the opposition forced the Governor to cut short his speech. The opposition demanded punishment to the security forces involved in the killings during the unrest since last July.

The second day of the Budget session too began amid ruckusby opposition parties seeking a debate on the killings in Kashmir. As soon as the Speaker entered the House, opposition legislators chanted slogans and demanded a debate on the Kashmir killings while disrupting the question hour. Later, a discussion on this issue was allowed by the Speaker, Kavinder Gupta. 

During the discussion, former Chief Minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah (January 3) asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to own the responsibility for the 2016 killings. He argued that the situation of 2016 cannot be compared with 2010. “For the first time in history we witnessed curfew for more than 50-60 days during 2016 while there was curfew only for 10-15 days in 2010. Jamia Masjid was locked for 19 consecutive Fridays. The internet was banned and newspaper offices were raided,” he said. The former Chief Minister added, “Mehbooba used to shed tears at the residences of militants before 2010 and saw toffees in the mouths of youth killed in 2010. But now she accuses them of attacking camps of security forces.”

His party’s senior leader Ali Mohammad Sagar demanded a Commission to be constituted to probe the 2016 killings in Kashmir while CPI (M) leader and MLA Kulgam M Y Tarigami urged Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to initiate a process of dialogue on the Kashmir issue.

Participating in a debate in the Legislative Council over Kashmir killings, National Conference MLC Showkat Ganai (January 3) described Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani as a freedom fighter and a martyr. “Kashmiris will continue to pick up guns and sacrifice their lives fighting until the issue is resolved,” the MLC was quoted as saying. Earlier, Opposition members in the Upper House staged a walk-out (January 2) raising the slogans “Pellet shellet, pava shava na bhai na” to protest against the killings during the summer unrest in Kashmir and use of pellet guns against the protestors.

Chief Minister Mehbobba Mufti speaking during Obituary References in Assembly (January 2), without naming National Conference, accused the party of not only sowing the seeds of separatism in Kashmir but also blamed it of making mockery of Raishumari (plebiscite) by calling it Awaragardi (waywardness). “Then you rigged 1987 elections and gave guns to the youth which gave rise to militancy. These are the factors responsible for the Kashmir situation,” she added.

As against 96 people killed, thousands injured and hundreds hit by pellets during the 2016 summer unrest in the Valley, government said 78 persons including two policemen were killed in the unrest and 463 persons detained under Public Safety Act (PSA). Out of 463 persons detained under PSA, 145 have been released so far. The state government in a written reply in the Assembly (January 3) said around 59 youth joined militant groups after the killing of Burhan Wani. It added though there was no proposal under consideration for constituting a judicial commission to probe the killings and excesses by security forces but a proposal of paying compensation to the affected persons was under consideration.

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