Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s refusal to return Afzal Guru’s mortal remains to the family led to a day of ruckus in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on Tuesday as the Valley-based opposition pressed hard on a resolution and the Jammu-based opposition complained that the House was turning into a “platform for secessionists and anti-national elements.”
Speaker Mubarak Gul adjourned the proceedings intermittently four times — lastly till Wednesday —when the members, divided on regional and religious lines, raised slogans and counter-slogans. With conflicting demands they occupied the well, stood up on the tables and threw microphones till the marshals dragged the independent MLA Engineer Rasheed out and the Speaker called it a day.
With the Speaker’s first entry, all members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), along with Mr. Rasheed, Peoples Democratic Front’s Hakeem Mohammad Yasin and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) State Secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, got up to condemn Mr. Shinde’s statement. They alleged that Mr. Shinde had not only “shut all doors on Kashmir” but also committed “outright contempt” to Parliament as well as the J&K Assembly by making his statement at a third place when both the Parliamentary institutions were in session.
The members of the Valley-based opposition outfits made it repeatedly clear in one voice that they would not relent until the House passed a resolution, asking the Centre to return Guru’s mortal remains to his family. Even as most of the Ministers and the MLAs of the ruling National Conference (NC) chose to watch the drama as mute spectators, its female legislator Shameema Firdaus made emphatically clear that her party was as much concerned on Guru’s mortal remains as any other party. “We are all on the same page,” she asserted.
The Speaker repeatedly turned down the demand of allowing a resolution with the argument that the House had already held a day-long deliberation on the subject. He pleaded that the House could not discuss the same issue twice under its Rules of Business. His ruling and arguments met with louder slogans: “We want resolution.”
Simultaneously, all the members of the Jammu-based opposition parties —the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the National Panthers Party and the Jammu State Morcha — raised counter-slogans and demands. In one voice, their members argued that the Assembly had no competence to discuss “the hanging of a terrorist who had attacked Parliament and had been executed after being convicted by the Supreme Court of India.” They alleged that some members were wasting the Assembly’s time and raising “antinational slogans, issues and demands.”
“They are playing to the gallery. They are doing it all for votebank politics”, BJP’s Ashok Khajuria yelled about the Kashmiri opposition legislators.
The hullabaloo culminated into an unruly scene when Law Minister Mir Saifullah stood up to make a statement. He was tolerated when he asserted that “this House respects the peoples’ aspirations on this sensitive issue.” However, the opposition MLAs from Jammu confronted him fiercely when he referred to Guru as “Afzal Guru Sahab”. They alleged that the Law Minister was demonstrating his “love and respect” for someone who had been convicted in a heinous crime by the country’s highest judicial forum and hanged to death for his involvement in an attack on the temple of the Indian democracy.
Soon the confrontation intensified. At one point of time, Mr. Rasheed was seen pulling out microphones on the well. Two of the PDP MLAs slapped the watch and ward staff.
The first reaction from the tight-lipped Congress came when Minister of Irrigation and Public Health Engineering Sham Lal Sharma strongly rejected the Valley-based Opposition’s demand.