Monday, August 12, 2013

J&K Minister quits over Kishtwar violence - The Hindu

Jammu and Kashmir Home Minister Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo after tendering his resignation over Kishtwar violence, in Jammu on Monday. Photo: PTI

Jammu and Kashmir Home Minister Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo after tendering his resignation over Kishtwar violence, in Jammu on Monday. Photo: PTI

Under pressure from Opposition over the riots in Kishtwar, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday sought the resignation of Minister of State for Home Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo after initially ignoring such demands. Governor Narendar Nath Vohra accepted Mr. Kichloo's resignation immediately on the Chief Minister's recommendation.

From the Bharatiya Janata Party to the Peoples Democratic Party, different political parties called for the removal of the Minister's removal for his alleged inaction and failure to prevent the violent clashes despite his presence in Kishtwar, his hometown and constituency, on the day of Eid.

Some of the Opposition leaders also alleged that the unlicensed .12 bore guns used in the riots by some arsonists from one community were looted by unruly crowds from the shop of a Hindu inside the Shahan Complex, a commercial property registered in the name of Mr Kichloo's son. Forty guns with 1500 rounds of ammunition were allegedly looted from the shop. On the other hand, some Hindu members of the Village Defence Committee allegedly used their official guns against Muslims at several places, including in Padder area, where the third casualty took place on Saturday.

The BJP, which initially called for a one day shutdown in Jammu, extended the strike to 72 hours, the primary demand being Mr Kichloo's dismissal.

Sources told The Hindu that after a series of telephone conversations with his coalition partner in New Delhi, and with his father and MP Farooq Abdullah, the Chief Minister asked Mr. Kichloo to step down.

The Minister immediately announced his resignation at a press conference and later tendered it to the Chief Minister at his Jammu residence. A number of the Congress leaders, including Doda MLA and PWD Minister Abdul Majid Wani, were urging Mr. Abdullah since earlier this year to relieve Mr. Kichloo of his duties.

Sources said the Congress high command too didn't want the BJP to exploit a communal strife ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

"I want the truth should come out. Chief Minister has ordered a judicial probe [by a retired High Court judge]. My conscience does not allow me to continue as a Minister till the probe files its findings," Mr. Kichloo said at the news conference. He said he was resigning for he didn't want his presence to cast shadow on an independent probe. "Mr. Omar Abdullah is my leader and I have full faith in him and above all I have an endearing faith in Almighty. Truth shall prevail and justice will be done," he said.

He alleged that certain political parties were trying to malign his name by blaming him for the violence. "My electorate of Kishtwar vouch for my secular credentials. I am deeply hurt that for petty political ends some people have stooped so low as to accuse me of something I have not done."

Omar rakes up Gujarat

Meanwhile, Mr. Abdullah, who was the MoS External Affairs in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, took potshots at the BJP. "Would [Arun] Jaitley be so kind as to inform Parliament whether the Gujarat Home Minister or MoS Home resigned or even offered to in 2002!" he tweeted. On the Kishtwar riots, he said: "3 unfortunate deaths — 1 Hindu, 2 Muslim & we've a judicial inquiry with my Minister resigning. Would the BJP care to recount 2002 response [in Gujarat]?"

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