PM Modi denounces Masarat Alam's release by J&K govt, PDP remains defiant

| Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 07:14
First Published |

New Delhi: Parliament on Monday erupted in anger over a separatist's release in Jammu and Kashmir, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to share the "outrage" and denounce the decision amidst his government's assertion that it is willing to make any sacrifice for national integrity.

As opposition mounted an onslaught over freeing of Masarat Alam by the J&K government of which BJP is a part, Home Minister Rajnath Singh admitted to "ideological differences" with PDP and asserted that "nobody, howsoever powerful", will be allowed to play with national integrity.

Members in both Lok Sabha and Rajya expressed "outrage" over the release of the separatist leader, calling the development as "anti-national" and dangerous to the country's integrity. They dared BJP to pull out of the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led government on the issue.

Speaking in Lok Sabha, Modi said he shared the "outrage" and would take whatever action is required. Asserting that the release of the separatist leader was not acceptable, Modi said his government won't tolerate any compromise with the nation's integrity.

He said the Centre has sought clarifications from the state government and will act after the response is received. "Parliament, in one voice, has condemned this type of action. I assure the country and the House that whatever is happening there (in J and K), the Union government was neither consulted not informed... Government does not accept such action.

"In one voice, we express our anger against those supporting separatists and misusing the law. In the coming days, we will take whatever action is required and we are committed to the nation's integrity," Modi said. The Home Minister, who made statements in both the Houses, asserted that Jammu and Kashmir was, is and will be an integral part of the country and "no one, howsoever powerful, will be allowed to play with the security, unity and integrity of India."

Rejecting allegations of a "hidden agenda" behind the decision to release Alam, he said, "We are ready to make any sacrifice for the national integrity." He assured Parliament that the Centre will not shy away from issuing "strongest advisory" and will inform the House about action taken in the matter.

Members of many opposition parties, including Congress, TMC and RJD, walked out of the House expressing their dissatisfaction with the government's reply. Facing attack for allying with PDP, Modi told opposition parties that they may attack BJP politically for having a tie-up at some other time but "on these issues of national integrity, a message should not go out that we are divided."

To questions raised by opposition members, the Prime Minister shot back, "Don't teach us patriotism.... BJP has no reason to keep silent as we are the people who sacrificed Shyama Prasad Mukherjee."

Citing the Home Minister's statement, he said, "we have sought more clarification from the state. We will inform Parliament on the action taken." Rajnath Singh said the Centre had sought queries from the state government as soon as Alam was released on Saturday.

The state government has replied but the Centre is not satisfied, the Home Minister said, adding further clarifications have been sought. Admitting to "ideological differences" between BJP and PDP, Singh tried to turn the tables on Congress, saying, "We have never had any relationship with the PDP in the past. They are with us only for 10 days. Whatever influence is there, it must be yours on them."

Congress had run a coalition government with PDP in the state for nearly six years between 2002 and 2008. Singh said the state government has informed that 27 criminal cases, including attempt to murder and sedition, had been registered against Alam and he was detained under the Public Safety Act after he got bail in all the cases.

The release of Alam, leader of Muslim League, has created strains between the coalition partners with BJP insisting that such an action was not a part of the Common Minimum Programme on the basis of which the government was formed. Replying to the Opposition's attack that there may be a hidden agenda, Singh said, "Our agenda is never hidden. Our agenda is always very open. We are not the one who operate behind curtains," he said.

He described the meeting between Modi and Sayeed ahead of government formation as "normal courtesy". Congress Leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge attacked Modi over his assertion that the Centre was not told about the development and said BJP then should either pull out of the alliance government in J&K or Alam should be put behind bars again.

Rajya Sabha was adjourned later after the Opposition created uproar, questioning why Modi did not speak in the House on the issue like he did in Lok Sabha. Though Modi was present in the Upper House during the discussion, the government said he did not speak as the Opposition members never asked him to.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, who raised the question, said it was not known earlier that Modi had spoken in Lok Sabha and they came to know about later when he had left.

Justifying the formation of government with PDP in the state, the Home Minister said it was necessitated due a fractured mandate and BJP joined hands with an intent of ensuring that the state develops and flourishes. Singh also shifted the blame on the previous Congress-NC government for not referring the matter of Alam's detention under the Public Safety Act in September 2014 to the Advisory Board and accused it of sitting over it for over three months.

"I want to assure the House that our government cannot make any compromise on public safety and public security. Our politics not only for government but for making nation," he said.

Earlier, Congress, TMC, JD-U and BSP raised the issue when the House met for the day. They called it a serious issue with implications on national security and demanded suspension of business to take up the issue. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said as far as the government is concerned, there will be no compromise on national security. He said the Home Ministry has sought a report on the issue from the state government.

Congress members continued to press for a statement from Prime Minister and stormed into the well of the House, forcing adjournment of proceedings for 15 minutes. Anand Sharma (Cong) alleged that the Jammu and Kashmir government was encouraging separatists and anti-national activities. He said this cannot be accepted.

Mayawati (BSP) said after the controversial statement by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed crediting Pakistan and separatists for the conduct of free and fair elections in the state, the release of separatist leader is not in national interest but anti-national.

BJP, she said, should not compromise national interest for the lust of power. Sharad Yadav (JD-U) said it was BJP's responsibility to clarify on the issue as it had been having parleys with PDP for two months before forming the government in J&K.

Derek O'Brien (TMC) said the security of the country has been compromised. The Prime Minister needs to come and explain, he said. Mir Mohammad Fayaz (PDP) criticised Congress for raising the issue now when it did not utter a word when the PDP-Congress coalition in 2002 released Hurriyat leaders Geelani, Shabir Shah and Yaseen Malik.

Fayaz alleged that Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad of Congress had compromised on principles to get elected to Rajya Sabha even as five Congress MLAs had voiced similar views as PDP on the hanging of Afzal Guru.

Azad rebutted the charge saying 3-4 MLAs had in response to a statement by chief spokesperson of PDP, who is now a minister, stated that on humanitarian grounds the family should have been allowed to meet Afzal Guru and his body should be handed over to them. The statement by the legislators was in their personal capacity and not authorised by the party, he added.

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