Led by the Congress, the opposition launched an acerbic attack on the government against the continued detention of former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and the situation in the Kashmir valley and the killing of civilians in the state. Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also took on the government for stopping Indian lawmakers from travelling to Jammu and Kashmir but allowing European Members of Parliament to visit the valley.
Within minutes of commencement of the Question Hour on day one of the winter session, around 30 members from the Congress trooped into the Well, shouting slogans and demanding that the government stop attacking the Opposition as well as foisting false cases. Some of them were allowed to speak after Question Hour was over.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir was akin to a doctor declaring that an operation was successful even though the patient had died, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told the Lok Sabha. He said the violence in Kashmir was still continuing and people from outside had been targeted by terrorists, he said.
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“The operation is over, the patient is dead,” he said, a reference to the government insistence that scrapping Article 370 which extended special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir would lead to a decline in terror activities and help security forces control violence. The state was carved into two union territories, Ladakh and the Jammu-Kashmir on 31 October in accordance with a law passed by parliament in the previous budget session.
The Congress leader also recalled Home Minister Amit Shah’s assurance in the Lok Sabha that Farooq Abdullah had not been detained by the authorities in early August, around the time parliament was ending J&K’s special status. Farooq Abdullah had then contested the home minister’s contention.
“But Farooq Abdullah is still in custody… What injustice is this,” Chowdhury said.
Amit Shah wasn’t in the House. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla stepped in to set the record clear. Om Birla told the house that Farooq Abdullah was not in custody when Amit Shah had made the comment. “It was true at that point of time,” the speaker said, adding Farooq Abdullah was formally detained under the public safety law on a later date.
Abdullah was detained in September, hours before the Supreme Court was to hear a habeas corpus petition filed by MDMK leader Vaiko.
Om Birla referred to provisions that require authorities to inform the Speaker’s office about detention or arrest of a member. “Till I don’t get this information, this house does not treat it as an arrest,” the speaker said.
The Congress leader used a derogatory term for members of the European Union to which some members took objection. “Our leader Rahul Gandhi was not allowed to visit (Jammu and Kashmir), several MPs were sent back … is it not an insult that we can’t go there … migrant labourers were killed, Army men are dying,” he said.
Speaker Om Birla said he would examine whether the remark against the members of parliament from Europe should be expunged.
Leaders of National Conference, Nationalist Congress Party, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also supported the points made by the Congress. Former minister TR Baalu of the DMK said Farooq Abdullah’s detention was illegal and it was for the Speaker to intervene. “You are the custodian of the house,” Baalu said.