* Benches, mikes pulled down in LA/LC; Minister, MLAs nearly come to blows
Speaker: CM had no intention to make such remarks; Oppn seeks statement
JAMMU, Feb 1: Speaker Kavinder Gupta today adjourned the Legislative Assembly sine die, six days ahead of schedule, following unprecedented situation in the House created by Opposition MLAs, mainly from National Conference and Congress, who pulled down benches, mikes and papers and nearly came to blows with the treasury benches demanding categoric statement from the Speaker on Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s remarks on Article 370.
National Conference MLA Altaf Ahmad Wani (Kalloo), who had picked up two chairs and flung them in air and two members of Watch and Ward Staff of the Assembly were injured amidst complete pandemonium by the Opposition MLAs, who insisted that the Speaker and the Chief Minister should clarify their position on Article 370 remarks.
Initially, the Speaker adjourned the House within seven minutes of pandemonium i.e. 10.07 am for half an hour. However, as the Assembly resumed its sitting at around 11 am, the situation was same with all opposition MLAs on their feet, some of them trooping near the Well, shouting slogans against the Government and making functioning of the House impossible.
The Speaker adjourned the Assembly sine die at 11.07 am, bringing curtains on Budget Session of the Legislature, six days ahead of the schedule. The Assembly was scheduled to sit till February 7 and there were five sittings still left-two days each for Private Member’s Resolutions and Private Member’s Bills and one day for Government business.
An official bulletin released this evening by the Assembly Secretariat said the Speaker has adjourned the House sine die using powers vested with him under Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.
As the Assembly resumed its sitting at 10 am today, National Conference Legislature Party leader Omar Abdullah wanted to know from the Speaker whether he had examined proceedings of the Assembly on Monday (when the Chief Minister had described opponents of Article 370 as `anti-nationals’) and when Mehbooba Mufti would make a statement in the House to clarify her remarks, as assured by the Speaker yesterday.
“Our queries are simple. We need answers to them. Whether you have examined the remarks and expunged the words or not? And when the Chief Minister is going to make a statement? Please tell us the time,” Omar said.
The Speaker had yesterday said that if word ‘anti-national’, would have been used, he will expunge it.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was not present in the House during its proceedings today.
Kavinder Gupta said he has examined the record and the Chief Minister didn’t mean what was attributed to her.
“The Chief Minister had mentioned that under the garb of Article 370, some people were trying to create trouble. She had no intentions to mean what has been said over her remarks”, Gupta said.
An unsatisfied Opposition was on the feet and created an unprecedented situation in the Assembly. While some senior MLAs including Omar Abdullah, MY Tarigami (CPM) and Hakim Mohammad Yasin (PDF) were protesting from their seats, many other NC and Congress MLAs started throwing benches and mikes down, tore off the papers and flung them in the air, leading to complete ruckus.
National Conference MLA from Pahalgam Altaf Ahmad Wani (Kalloo) picked up two chairs and threw them on the ground. The table of Reporters inside the Assembly was damaged and the staff had to run for the cover as MLAs were throwing benches and mikes on the ground.
Within seven minutes of the proceedings, the Speaker adjourned the House for half an hour.
The coalition partners maintained silence in the House and didn’t react to the Opposition allegations.
As the Opposition MLAs were leaving the House after the adjournment, former Speaker and NC MLA Mohammad Akbar Lone and his party colleague Abdul Majeed Larmi came rushing towards Forests Minister and BJP leader Choudhary Lal Singh, who was sitting on front row of the treasury benches. With Lal Singh also standing up, they nearly came to the blows but the Watch and Ward Staff came in-between and separated the both.
In the meantime, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri, Transport Minister Sunil Sharma, MLA Akhnoor Rajiv Sharma and PDP MLA Javed Mustafa Mir walked up to Lal Singh and defused the situation.
Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Nawang Rigzin Jora later claimed that one of the Opposition members was abused, resulting into reaction. “We are not here to get abused,” he stated.
As the House resumed around 11 am after adjournment, there was again massive uproar from the Opposition benches. NC MLA Altaf Ahmad Wani (Kalloo) had come to the House with bandage in his arm.
This time, however, the Marshals had blocked all the benches of Opposition members to prevent them from reaching into Well of the House. The treasury benches and podium of the Speaker was also guarded by the Watch and Ward Staff.
The Speaker then rushed through the business listed for today which included seven Call Attention Notices and Motions for Elections to six Committees. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri moved the Motions for Elections to Committees, all of which were accepted by the House with a loud `Yes’ from the treasury benches and massive sloganeering and hooting by the Opposition members.
The Speaker also rushed through two bills, which had been introduced yesterday and were listed for passing today.
As Opposition indulged in massive sloganeering from their benches on being unable to reach to the Well on being surrounded by the Marshals, the Speaker remarked that he was ashamed of the behaviour of some of the opposition members.
Social Welfare Minister Sajjad Gani Lone and Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu proposed pass motions to the bills seeking to amend Jammu and Kashmir Persons with Disabilities Act and Jammu and Kashmir General Sales Tax Act, which were passed in the ruckus.
The Speaker cleared entire business of the House within seven minutes and announced adjournment of the House sine-die amid massive sloganeering from opposition benches including `Marshal Raj Nahin Chalega (Marshal rule won’t do)’ and `CM Saheba Jawaab Day, Jawaab Day (the CM should reply)’.
Speaking to the Excelsior later, Speaker Kavinder Gupta said two members of the Assembly’s Watch and Ward staff including Kamran and Sajid Ahmad were injured during pandemonium in the House.
Gupta said the Opposition MLAs had come to the House with “pre-determined mind set” to completely disrupt the House proceedings and create uproar.
“Yesterday also, the Opposition members created trouble in the House. Even when I clarified my statement yesterday that I haven’t expunged the Chief Minister’s remark but would examine proceedings, they were bent upon creating trouble,” he said.
“The Opposition created scene in the House, ransacked property and beat-up the Watch and Ward staff. This is not a healthy sign of Opposition. They should play a constructive role,” the Speaker said.
“Our business is almost complete and after taking all pros and cons into consideration, the House was adjourned sine die,” he added.
“Opposition was not in mood of allowing smooth functioning of the House despite our statement and finally, I adjourned the House sine die,” the Speaker said.
Speaking to the reporters outside the House, Education Minister and State Government’s official spokesman Naeem Akhter said: it is unfortunate that such a thing has happened. It is condemnable”.
“Breaking chairs, attacking staff and uprooting mikes is not expected from the lawmakers particularly when some of them are senior members and many time Ministers. There is no such example of this kind of behaviour in the history of Assembly proceedings,” Akhter said.
Congress Legislature Party leader Nawang Rigzin Jora said, “We had raised the issue of the Chief Minister’s remarks and its clarification yesterday and the Speaker had told us that we have expunged it but later retracted by saying it has not been expunged.”
“The Speaker is enacting a drama in the House. He should make up his mind whether he has expunged it or not. What does he want? Does he want to run the House smoothly?”, Jora asked.
Jora said today Omar had asked in a very quiet and peaceful way whether the CM’s statement has been expunged.
“The Speaker tried to hoodwink us by giving a confusing statement saying that the CM did not mean what has been attributed to her in the statement…It is part of the record of the House. Please come out with the record of the proceedings and see what she has said and then talk about it. The Speaker should not give his interpretation,” he said.
The protests took place because the Speaker ignored the opposition’s demand. The clashes were triggered because one of the Ministers used abusive words against a member of NC which cannot be tolerated, Jora added
BJP MLA Ravinder Raina condemned the Opposition’s behaviour and termed it as unfortunate.
“It is very wrong on the part of opposition to behave like this in the House where they have come after being elected by the people to make laws, raise issues and undertake assurances from the Government on development and ensure peace, progress and brotherhood in the State,” he said.
“If the lawmakers will create such a situation, there will be nothing more unfortunate in a democratic set up. If you do not agree on any point, you can debate, discuss but should not resort to throwing chairs, breaking furniture, uprooting mikes and beating marshals,” Raina said.