With the Valley in turmoil, cracks appeared in the ruling alliance led by Mehbooba Mufti after a BJP minister described stone-pelting youth as “deshdrohi” (traitors) who deserved to be shot or beaten — “Uska ilaj hai goli” — because “laaton ke bhoot baaton se nahi maante” (those who do not listen deserve to be kicked).
The remarks by Chander Parkash Ganga, J&K minister for industries and commerce, were echoed by at least two BJP ministers but drew an angry reaction from partner PDP which said his “disgusting utterances” and “sickening and intimidating statement against Kashmiri youth” were not only “unbecoming of a senior minister” but also fraught with danger.
A recording of Ganga’s remarks, made last Sunday after a public meeting in Ramgarh town along the international border in Samba district, surfaced Thursday.
In the video recording, Ganga, BJP legislator from Vijaypur, refers to a video of youths being beaten by securitymen: “Aap ne ek video jo viral hua hai dekha, kaise Pakistan Murdabad bol rahe hain. Wahi log hain na jo patthar marte hain. Inka ilaj jahi ek joota hai. Yeh jo inko pyaar kartey hain, unko pappian lene ki zaroorat nahin hai. Deshdrohi hain aur deshdrohi ka ek hi ilaj hai, woh chahe Pakistan se aaya ho ya desh ke andhar ho. Uska ilaj hai goli. Aur agar goli na ho to kam se kam usko aisi sazaa deni chahiye, jaise usko dande maare thhay. Aisa hi inka ilaj chahiye. Dobara koi patthar maar jaye to aap baat karna… Kis tarah ki azadi chahiye inko, aap bataiye mujhe.”
(“You saw a video that has gone viral, how Pakistan Murdabad was being raised. These are the same people who hurl stones. They deserve to be beaten with shoes. Those who love them don’t have to kiss them. They are traitors and there’s only one cure, whether these traitors are from Pakistan or within the country. They deserve to be shot. If not bullets, at least punish them like the way there beaten. They deserve this treatment. If anybody throws a stone again, talk to me… what kind of independence do they want, tell me.”)
Two days after he made these remarks, Ganga attended a meeting of the cabinet, chaired by Mehbooba Mufti. The cabinet expressed “deep anguish” over the killing of civilians during protests in the Valley and urged security forces to “exercise maximum restraint”.
Although J&K BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi disapproved of Ganga’s remarks saying this was not the party stand and “bullet is not an alternative, but the last resort when security forces feel there is a threat to their lives”, some of Ganga’s colleagues echoed his view.
Rajeev Jasrotia, BJP MLA from Kathua, said his government will be very strict in dealing with protesters in the Valley. “They are anti-national and there is no doubt about it. What else one can say about those raising Pakistani and ISIS flags on Indian soil,” he said.
Abdul Ghani Kohli, BJP minister for animal husbandry and fisheries, said “there is no doubt that some of the protesters in the Valley are anti-national”. He claimed their numbers were small but others were “joining them out of fear”. The “anti-national elements”, he said, “shall be dealt with sternly, keeping in view the national interest”.
He was supported by another BJP minister, Choudhary Lal Singh, who hold the portfolio of forest, ecology and environment: “I only believe that there is a law to deal with those raising pro-Pakistan slogans and attacking security forces. And it shall be implemented.”
But Ganga’s remarks angered partner PDP whose vice-president Mohammad Sartaj Madni said such “disgusting utterances” are not only “unjustifiable” but “perilous” as well.
“It is unbecoming of a senior minister in the government to dish out such a sweeping, sickening and intimidating statement against Kashmiri youth,” Madni said in a statement.
He said Ganga’s statement was in contravention to the stand of the state cabinet on the issue. “Instead of reaching out to the distressed and alienated Kashmiri youth and address their concerns”, Madni said, “the hawkish rhetoric of such fringe elements has the danger of further adding to the alienation of the people and impeding the government’s efforts of restoring peace and calm in the Valley”.
“Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had entered into an alliance with the BJP only with the objective of bridging the gulf between the people of different regions the state and taking Jammu and Kashmir to new heights of inclusive development and prosperity,” he said, adding “unfortunately the unwarranted statements of such fringe elements are negating the basic philosophy of this alliance”.
“Instead of bringing people together, such insidious statements are unfortunately only going to add to the void,” Madni said. “We hope that good sense will prevail and the BJP leadership will take serious note of such uncalled-for statement from a senior minister of the party,” he said.
PDP leader and education minister Altaf Bukhari said “Kashmir is a political issue and denying that fact won’t help. We cannot brush it under the carpet.” He said Ganga’s statement is “unfortunate” and “further vitiates the already vitiated atmosphere”.
“The best course is to start engagement and negotiation process. It cannot be dealt as a mere law and order problem alone,’’ Bukhari said. “This is what our agenda of alliance also recognises.”
Another PDP leader and minister Imran Raza Ansari called Ganga’s statement as “unwarranted”.
“This is not how a senior leader and a public representative should talk. Whenever youngsters throw stones in any other part of the country, nobody opens fire at them. This is not the way. Being in power does not entitle him to say all this. We need to talk to people, not kill them,’’ Ansari said.