The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on Monday adjourned for the day following pandemonium after the Speaker rejected an adjournment motion notice moved by Opposition PDP demanding discussion on the death of a NC worker allegedly in police custody in Srinagar last week.
The angry PDP members were on their feet leading to an acrimonious exchange between Lone and PDP veteran and prominent Shia leader, Iftikhar Hussain Ansari.
At one point the speaker exchanged heated words with Ansari who even tried to hurl a pedestal fan. The PDP members uprooted the desk mics and tore the house business papers. The ugly scenes forced three adjournments of the assembly, the last one for the day. A sombre Chief Minister Omar Abdullah could be seen watching the goings-on silently.
PDP president Mufti told reporters that the finger of suspicion in the alleged custodial killing pointed to the chief minister, his father, union minister Farooq Abdullah, and junior home minister Nasir Aslam Wani.
“What has come to light is that Omar became the interrogator, the judge and the executioner. A fair probe is not possible while they are in power,” Mufti said.
National Panthers Party legislator Balwant Singh Makotia demanded a CBI probe into the mysterious death of Yusuf.
After the second adjournment, when the house assembled again, the speaker expressed regret over his remarks and ordered expunging of the controversial remarks. The ruckus forced the speaker to adjourn the house as the Opposition and Treasury Benches continued to trade charges.
When the house assembled after the third adjournment, PDP legislators again stood up demanding that their leader and former deputy chief minister Baig be allowed to make a statement in the house.
When the speaker did not allow this, the PDP members stormed towards the speaker’s podium shouting slogans like, “Katilon Ko Pesh Karo, Pesh Karo (Present the killers)”.
As the chaos continued, the speaker adjourned the assembly for the day.
Yusuf, a land dealer from south Kashmir’s Bijbehara town, died last week Friday, allegedly in police custody. He had been detained for questioning along with two other middle-rung leaders of the party, who alleged that Yusuf had taken a bribe of Rs.1.18 crore from them for getting one a minister’s post and the other a legislator’s seat.
The government said Yusuf had died in the local police hospital due to a heart attack.
The PDP, however, alleges that Yusuf died under mysterious circumstances after he was called to the house of the chief minister to explain his position.
The government had yesterday rejected the Opposition PDP’s demand for resignation of the chief minister, saying a judicial probe has already been ordered into the incident. The state government’s response came even as the PDP decided to move the adjournment motion notice in the Assembly to discuss the situation arising out of the mysterious death of the NC worker.
The decision to move an adjournment motion was taken at a meeting of the PDP legislature party here, PDP sources had said.
Finance minister Mr. Abdul Rahim Rather had told reporters there was no need for Mr. Abdullah to resign as a judicial inquiry has been ordered to probe the circumstances leading to Yousuf’s death. “One cannot ask for resignation after every allegation.” he said.
Mr. Rather was responding to the demand of PDP calling for resignations of Mr. Abdullah, Minster of State for home Mr. Nasir Aslam Wani and Union minister Mr. Farooq Abdullah over the incident.
Mr. Rather had said action under law will be taken if anyone is responsible for the death of Yousuf. “I want to assure the people that if anyone is responsible for the death, action will be taken under law whoever he might be.”
The minister had appealed to the Opposition not to politicise the matter as the state government has already requested services of a sitting high court judge for conducting a judicial inquiry and finding the truth. “The intention of the government to find the truth was evident from the fact that we did not waste any time in requesting the services of a sitting High Court judge.”
Mr. Rather said the chief minister should be appreciated for prompt action in the case as his name was being dragged into a corruption case.
In a hurriedly convened media conference in the assembly lawns, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said he has “no hesitation” in presenting himself before a judicial inquiry that is to go into the death of a National Conference worker allegedly in police custody.
Omar said that the allegations about his involvement in the incident were “baseless and wild”. Referring to the allegations levelled by PDP president against him and his father Farooq Abdullah, he said, “I will not respond personally or through the media. I’m consulting my lawyers to respond in the form of defamation notice which will be taken to its logical conclusion.”
Syed Mohammad Yousuf, a NC worker from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, died on September 29 allegedly in police custody after two fellow party workers had accused him of taking Rs 1.18 crore from them for getting them berths in the Legislative Council.
Rejecting the allegations of Opposition PDP, Omar said he
had full faith in the judicial inquiry. “All I will say is that I have absolute, total and complete faith in the process of judicial inquiry. I am awaiting very keenly the establishment of this commission,” he said.
“I will answer whatever questions are put to me and I have no doubt that as a result of this judicial inquiry, the facts will speak for themselves and all the lies that I have been bombarded with will be shown what they are,” he said.
Rejecting PDP allegations that he was in any way involved in the death of Yousuf, Omar said he remained silent about the incident so far as he was accused of prejudging an inquiry ordered by the government in an earlier case.
“Cautiously, I remained silent because in the previous case, where in good faith, I shared preliminary information with media, at that time, I was accused of having prejudiced an inquiry that the government had ordered,” he said.
Referring to the incident, he said two NC workers came to see him last week, levelling allegations of extremely serious nature against a third worker.
“In the interest of transparency and fair play, I decided to call all the three together. I also called the Minister of State for Home to be present there, realising the criminal nature of the allegations,” he said.
Omar said he immediately referred the matter to the crime branch of the state police and asked it to proceed in the matter on the basis of facts that it would ascertain as a result of its investigation.
“What followed after that was the death of Yousuf which
was extremely unfortunate but what has been even more unfortunate than that is the way in which facts have been twisted, distorted and presented in a completely unrelated manner to the actual facts of the case,” Omar said.
The chief minister said instead of appreciating “suo motu” action against an individual accused of corruption, accusatory fingers were being pointed towards him and his colleagues.
“It has somehow been suggested that I or colleagues of mine are involved in criminal activity to the extent that certain supposedly responsible political leaders have gone so far as to suggest that I could be possibly involved in a case of murder,” he said.
Omar said he would not have ordered a judicial inquiry by a sitting high court judge if that had been the case. “Fact of the matter is I acted responsibly as I was expected to. While it is very easy to make assumptions and level allegations, the facts must be allowed to speak for themselves,” he said.
The chief minister said it was beyond his comprehension as to how the political leadership and certain sections of media were levelling allegations that the deceased had been tortured in the absence of a postmortem report.
“Without recourse to the postmortem report how it is possible for either political leadership of the state or sections of media to determine that the deceased was tortured. This is beyond my comprehension,” he said.
“If in any way, such allegations of torture are substantiated by either the preliminary or the final postmortem report, somebody will be held accountable for that,” he said.
Omar said in the absence of the postmortem report to level such “wild and unsubstantiated” allegations against him or any of his colleagues “is unfortunate”.
Promising to make the finding of the judicial inquiry public, Omar requested the media to report only facts about the case. “Do not editorialise or distort the facts. No effort has been spared to ensure that the truth is known. The findings of the judicial inquiry will be made public,” he said.