JAMMU, Jan 2: Opposition National Conference and Congress, for the second consecutive year, today disrupted Governor N N Vohra’s Address to Joint Session of Legislature for about 12 minutes in protest against what they called “human rights violations”, civilian killings, seeking more powers for the Panchayats and “al-round failure” of PDP-BJP coalition Government.
This time, however, the Governor kept waiting to start his Address till all members of National Conference and Congress staged walk-out. But, Vohra had to read his Address amid continued protests by Independent legislator Engineer Abdul Rashid, who didn’t walk-out along with other Opposition members. Last year, the Governor had left the Central Hall of Legislature within 15 minutes of massive protests by the Opposition without reading his Address.
As the Governor was about to begin his Address in the Central Hall of Legislature at 11 am, members of opposition Congress and NC stood up and raised slogans against the State Government carrying placards, listing “failures” of the Government on security and Panchayati Raj fronts.
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‘Murderers of Democracy, Answer the People’, ‘Panchayat Ki Taqat Ko Wapis Karo, Wapis Karo’ and ‘Stop Civilian Killings’ read some of the placards including a couple of them written on black clothes, carried by NC and Congress members.
Independent legislator from Langate Engineer Abdul Rashid continued shouting separately calling for ‘raishumari’ (self-determination) in the State and an end to “oppressive policies” on Kashmiris. He said the State Government was speaking “all lies” through the Governor Address.
Senior National Conference MLA and former Finance Minister Mohammad Shafi Uri started reading out from a written memorandum listing charges against the PDP-Congress coalition Government.
The Governor gave him a patient hearing and asked him to submit the memorandum so that he can begin his speech.
Though Shafi handed over the memorandum to the Governor, Opposition MLAs resorted to sloganeering when Vohra started his Address.
After a brief pause, Vohra began his Address amid high pitched protests, noisy scenes and thumping of desks in a bid to disrupt his speech, but he continued his Address.
The ruckus continued for 12 to 13 minutes after which the National Conference and Congress legislators staged a walkout from the Central Hall of Legislature. However, Independent MLA Engineer Rasheed Ahmed continued interrupting the Governor’s Address with his protests and speaking on Government’s failure to save innocent lives in Kashmir.
The National Conference and Congress MLAs and MLCs stage joint protest and dharna on the stairs outside the Central Hall shouting slogans against the Government. While NC legislators were raising slogans against “human rights violations”, civilian killings, “deteriorating situation in Kashmir”, the Congress MLAs were protesting against “indirect election” of Sarpanchs, seeking more powers for Panchayats, regional imbalances, discrimination, failure of PDP-BJP Government on various fronts and increase in ceasefire violations.
Meanwhile, National Conference and Congress have moved separate Adjournment Motions in the Legislative Assembly for tomorrow seeking suspension of all business to discuss human rights violations, civilians killing and security situation of Kashmir.
The NC’s adjournment motion has been signed by eight to 10 MLAs while Congress adjournment motion was signed by the party MLAs from Kashmir.
NC MLA and former Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone, who was one of the signatories to the adjournment motion, said the Centre and State Governments promises of normalcy in Kashmir have “turned out to be completely hollow”.
“Only a day before five CRPF personnel have been killed. They said everything is alright in Kashmir. We say nothing is al-right. This Government just wants to stick to the Chair,” Lone, a former Minister, said.
Lone said there was “no name of governance” in the State.
Congress MLAs from Kashmir have also moved an adjournment motion in the Assembly tomorrow seeking discussion on “human rights violations” and security situation in the Valley.
Speaking to reporters outside the House, Congress Legislature Party leader Rigzin Jora and NC MLA Ali Mohammad Sagar said that Government has “failed” on all fronts from security to governance front.
“Security situation has deteriorated badly in Kashmir. Highest number of security force personnel have been killed. But Government is saying that situation is moving towards peace and normalcy. Only yesterday, 5 CRPF men were killed in a suicide attack”, Jora said.
“There is no improvement in the security situation and the reality is that the situation is getting worse with each passing day since the PDP and BJP came together to form the Government,” Jora charged.
The CLP leader claimed the casualties suffered by security forces and civilians over the past three years had increased manifold. “Bloodshed was continuing and “fatal casualty among security personnel had broken all records over the past decade”.
Border residents are facing the brunt of Pakistani shelling which has also gone up alarmingly, Jora said.
“They used to taunt us for border skirmishes. Today the situation is that every now and then, the forces and civilians are suffering casualties and the problems of border residents have increased manifold,” the Congress MLA from Leh said.
Jora claimed the increase in violence is because “this coalition of ideologically different parties has not gone down well with the people of the state”.
Jora also alleged “subversion of Constitution” by the State Government by not holding any Assembly session after 2017 budget session in January. He said three-day session held in July was special GST session in which no questions were sought from the legislators and only GST was discussed.
“The Government doesn’t want to face questions from the legislators,” he said.
NC MLA and former Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar said that party has submitted a memorandum to Governor on “total failure” of the Government and its “dismissal performance”.
“There is complete “uncertainty and insecurity” among the people of Kashmir. We raised sentiments and aspirations of the people of the State before the Governor,” Sagar said.
National Conference provincial president and MLA Nagrota Devender Singh Rana said the PDP-BJP coalition Government has “failed on all fronts”.
“The Government has failed to live up to the expectations of the people. Our protests inside the Central Hall of Legislature and outside reflected sentiments of the people,” Rana said, adding there was complete disillusionment among the people against the Government.
Works Minister and Government spokesman Naeem Akhter described Opposition’s behaviour during the Governor’s Address as “irresponsible”.
He told reporters that the Opposition should have allowed the Governor to Address Joint Sitting of the Legislature uninterruptedly.
Meanwhile, the National Conference submitted a memorandum to Governor N N Vohra inside the Central Hall of Legislature, seeking a political dialogue to resolve the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
The memorandum’s release coincided with the start of the budget session. It claimed that under the BJP-PDP Government the identity of Jammu and Kashmir and its Constitutional status was under threat.
The NC expressed concern over the “worsening situation” and the continued political vacuum in the State which adversely affected the human rights situation, economy and growth.
It said the issue in Jammu and Kashmir is that of a “political nature” and deserves a sustained, holistic and comprehensive political engagement.
“There is a growing disillusionment in all regions of the State which is a matter of great concern. Therefore, we reiterate our stand seeking a meaningful and result-oriented political dialogue,” it said.
The NC expressed disappointment at the Sate Government’s alleged failure to prevent the loss of civilian lives despite repeated assurances of restraint and accountability.
“Recent killings of two young mothers in Kashmir during counter-insurgency operations, is one such glaring example. Not only has the State Government failed to prevent atrocities, it has also failed to deliver justice in such cases,” it claimed.
The party claimed the State Government had little to offer apart from “rhetoric”.
The NC expressed concern over the mass crackdowns and search operations where “entire villages were ransacked and civilians subjected to harassment and humiliation. These add to the alienation and anguish and need to be stopped”.
It claimed the tourism industry was in crisis due to the alleged failure of the State Government to ensure peace and stability.
“The State Government seems solely invested in working with a specific coterie of businessmen in the State…We demand immediate and effective steps to restore the industry without further delay,” the memorandum alleged.
The NC described unemployment and un-employability as “major challenges” before the State and claimed the Government had failed on both counts which led to discontent among the youth which can have dangerous consequences.
It also highlighted issues of power crisis, unemployment and alleged mis-governance. The NC took a dig at the Government for its alleged failed to ensure the availability of essential commodities and rations to the people.
Unless his tenure is further extended, this was Governor NN Vohra’s last Address to Joint Session of Legislature as his extended tenure will come to an end in June this year. He had been appointed as J&K Governor on June 11, 2008 and his tenure was further extended by five years in June 2013.
Former Chief Minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah didn’t attend Joint Session of Legislature. Last year also, he had abstained from the Joint Session. This, according to NC sources, was due to the fact that Omar had supported Vohra’s extension for five year term in June 2013 when he was the Chief Minister and had also worked with him as Chief Minister for full six-year term. Therefore, he didn’t want to disrupt his Address.
Last year also, the Governor’s Address was held on January 2. However, the Governor couldn’t deliver his Address in 2017 due to massive protests by the Opposition but this year, he read the Address after boycott by the Opposition.
As Independent MLA Engineer Abdul Rashid continued to disrupt the Address after walk-out by National Conference and Congress, the Governor was seen speaking to Legislative Council Chairman Haji Inayat Ali. In turn, Ali spoke to the Council Secretary and later Speaker Kavinder Gupta. It seems the discussion might have taken place on eviction of Engineer Rashid from the Central Hall of Legislature but it was not ordered.
The Governor reached the Central Hall at the stroke of 11 am. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reached the Hall five minutes earlier while Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh had reached nearly 20 minutes before start of the Address.