J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was forced out of the biggest all-woman rally held by her government after the participants, angry at her presence, started shouting slogans of azadi on Tuesday. The programme was cut short after she left.
Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) here for “training” on different arts and crafts.
“We were told we would attend training and that some officers had come specially for the purpose. We were informed we would also be told what we had to do in the future,” said a woman participant, who did not want to be named. “But when we saw the Chief Minister, we got angry.”
Another woman participant said, “They are trying to exploit us. They are trying to use us for political reasons. How can we tolerate this? Our youth have been killed. They are being beaten every day.”
Mufti, who had to leave 20 minutes after the programme began on Tuesday morning, played down what had happened. “Women were present in large numbers and probably a woman fainted. Others panicked. It is an important event. It was not managed well,” she said.
Security officials said they had apprehended trouble at the venue and advised the CM not to attend the function.
The contingent from south Kashmir, the hotbed of militancy now, first raised objection to Mufti’s presence, accusing officials of deceiving them in the name of training. As the women, numbering in hundreds, raised slogans, police bundled them into vehicles and sent them back to their villages. Sources said police officials then went looking for women from Pulwama district to move out.
After this, other women started protesting, flinging chairs and shouting azadi slogans. “She (Mufti) inspected the stalls and then went to the dais,” said an official present at the venue. “Some women were starting to narrate success stories when suddenly chairs were thrown and there were slogans. Nobody could grasp what was happening. Some thought there was a militant attack. She (Mufti) kept watching this from the dais but when women started to cross the security barricades, the security guards whisked her away.”
After the CM left, the women stormed out of the SKICC hall shouting ‘Hum kya chahte: azadi (We want freedom)’. In the melee, a few women were injured while some of them fainted.
Taking a dig at Mufti on her statement about the incident, former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted she was “living in denial”.