Police complaint filed; Opposition seeks Minister''s resignation
J&K Minister for Forests, Choudhary Lal Singh, has landed in trouble over his reported remarks to a group of Muslim farmers in Jammu, reminding them of 1947 massacre of Muslims in the region. While the farmers have filed a complaint with police seeking registration of FIR against Singh who is a senior BJP leader, opposition National Conference is demanding his resignation.
The deputation of farmers including a Hindu farmer had approached Singh at his official residence at Gandhi Nagar on May 18 in connection with issues pertaining to their orchard land.
“The Minister asked for our names and after knowing that we are from a particular community (Muslims) used abusive language against our community without listening to our pleas and said ‘Oye Gujroo tum 1947 bhool gaye ho’ (You Gujjars, have you forgotten 1947?)” reads the complaint filed by the farmers with Police Station Gandhi Nagar, Jammu.
At least four lakh Muslim residents of Jammu were massacred by communal forces in 1947, described by historians as a planned cleansing of the community from the region.
“The behavior of the Minister towards us was uncalled for and the utterances and the remarks made by him are derogatory and have hurt the sentiments of the community. We see a sinister design to vitiate communal brotherhood and tranquility (in Jammu),” reads the complaint, seeking registration of FIR against Lal Singh.
The Station House Officer (SHO) Gandhi Nagar Police Station, Bishnesh Kumar, confirmed that they have received the complaint against the Minister.
“We will first verify the complaint to find if something has really happened,” said the SHO.
But he added: “Ke Hoge Unhunay (minister) Koi Choti Baat (the Minister must have said minor thing to them (farmers).”
State Government spokesman Naem Akther said: “This (the remark) should be a terrible thing if this is true but Lal Singh has denied this and hence that should settle it. Even a hint of such a comment is unacceptable and can have very disastrous consequences if anybody were to make it.”
The controversial remark by the BJP Minister has however led to calls for his sacking from the Council of Ministers at a time when the PDP led Government is preparing for Budget Session here.
Opposition National Conference today sought immediate resignation of Lal Singh for using “highly provocative, abusive, derogatory and venomous language to threaten Gujjars by reminding them of the horrendous days of 1947, which witnessed worse communal frenzy.”
“If he (Singh) doesn’t resign, Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti) must sack him, as the unbecoming and irresponsible behavior of the Minister has potential to vitiate peaceful atmosphere and threaten harmony in Jammu,” senior National Conference leaders said in a joint statement, adding that BJP too must appreciate sensitivity of the matter and take stern action against its “loose cannon, lest it will be assumed that fascist saffron brigade is working on a sinister hidden agenda.”
The National Conference leaders “wondered over in-action by police” on the complaint lodged by the Gujjars farmers.
“Any attempt to shield the Minister or hush up the matter will have serious ramifications,” said the statement. “The boorish behavior of the Minister has lately touched dangerous proportions. The peace loving people of Jammu will no more tolerate such tantrums of entities like Lal Singh, as they firmly believe in secular ethos and inclusiveness.”
The signatories to the statement included Provincial President Devender Singh Rana, Senior State Vice President Surjeet Singh Slathia, State Vice President Rattan Lal Gupta, MLAs Javed Rana, Dr Kamal Arora and former ministers and senior party functionaries Syed Mushtaq Ahmed Bukhari, Abdul Gani Malik, Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo, Babu Ram Paul and Khalid Najeeb Suharwardhy, besides senior leaders Kashmira Singh, Mirza Abdul Rasheed, Rachpal Singh, Ajaz Jan, Sheikh Abdul Rehman, Bimla Luthra, Deependar Kour, Master Noor Hussain, Brij Mohan Sharma, Qazi Jalal-ud-Din, Dr Chaman Lal, Bushan Lal Bhat, Ch Haroon, Muhammed Iqbal Bhat, Jagjeevan Lal, Haji Mohammed Hussain, Gurdeep Singh Sasan, Jugal Mahajan, Master Baldev Singh Bhau, Satpal Lakhotra, Sheikh Bashir Ahmed, Abdul Gani Teli, Dharamveer Singh Jamwal, Satwant Kour Dogra, Satpal Lakhotra, Anil Dhar, Bashir Ahmed Wani, S Surinder Singh Bunty, Dilshad Malik, Muhammed Ayub Malik, Vijay Lochan, Sajjad Shaheen, Rajesh Bakshi and others.
Talking to media in Jammu, the group of farmers also demanded the resignation of the Minister.
“The way he (Lal Singh) misbehaved with us after knowing that we are Muslims and reminded us of 1947 (massacre), we fear that Muslims aren’t safe in Jammu. He (Singh) has no right to be a Minister and the State and Government of India should intervene in the matter,” one of the farmers told media outside the police station.
Another farmer accused the Minister of trying to instigating riots in Jammu. “He openly threatened us. We will take the issue to the Chief Minister,” the farmer said.
Another farmer told the media that they had visited the Minister to seek clearance for availing KCC loan against their orchard lands.
“Since this Government came to power, we aren’t allowed to enter into our orchards in Jammu,” the farmer told the media.
The BJP tried to distance itself from the controversy with State party President Sat Sharma saying he wasn’t aware about the issue.
“I will have to check it first,” he told Greater Kashmir.
During the previous PDP-BJP Government headed by late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, Lal Singh, as the then Health Minister, hogged headlines for his controversial remarks and gestures to doctors during his visits to hospitals.