Cong’s latest in J-K: CM left our ministers to die
4 July 2004
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Trying to encash the controversy over the duration of the Amarnath Yatra, the Congress, in its latest bid to unsettle Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, has given it a bizarre twist two of its ministers have openly accused the CM of endangering their lives and are refusing to attend office. The Yatra din is now a major political issue in the state, threatening to split the ruling coalition on communal lines. And the state BJP, VHP have been quick to move in, turning the heat on the Mufti government Advertisement First, four senior Congress ministers Raman Bhalla, Yogesh Sawhney, Jugal Kishore and Ramesh Sharma resigned in protest when Mufti rejected the Amarnath Shrine Board’s demand to extend the pilgrimage by a month. Deputy CM Mangat Ram Sharma too criticised the government decision. And now two ministers, Yogesh Sawhney and Gharu Ram, claim there’s a ‘‘plot to kill’’ them. Together with their wives and Governor Lt Gen (retd) S K Sinha, they had flown to the Amarnath cave for a bhumi poojan last Friday but the helicopter did not carry them back. The two ministers allege that the helicopter was withdrawn on the directions of Mufti, a charge the government denies, pointing out that poor weather conditions did not allow the chopper to return to the cave. But Sawhney told The Indian Express that he’d had enough ‘‘I have no faith in this government. I fear I may be killed. So I am leaving for Jammu tomorrow. I am not attending office. He (Mufti) should not interfere in our religious affairs.’’ [IMG]It all began when Governor Sinha, in his capacity as chairman of the Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board, attacked the government for ‘‘restricting religious tourism’’ after Mufti turned down the Board’s demand to extend the yatra duration. Sinha was supported by senior Congress leaders from Jammu and the issue began to acquire communal overtones. Although Sinha and Mufti arrived at a compromise with the intervention of Union minister and PCC chief Ghulam Nabi Azad — the Yatra was extended by 15 days. BJP and VHP have been quick to move in accusing Mufti of ‘‘acting at the behest of jihadis’’ and the state BJP calling the government ‘‘anti- Hindu’’. But there’s another reason, though not stated. The shrine board wants the state government to transfer ownership of land around the Amarnath cave to its custody. But the Kashmir-centric PDP knows any such decision will spell trouble in its constituency. A reaction to the Amarnath controversy within Kashmir is already building up. ‘‘The Muharram procession remains banned in Srinagar since 1984. Even the Milad procession has not been allowed for years. Security concerns are always cited as a reason for such government action. But now we will also demand that these processions be allowed,’’ said a senior PDP minister.