Amid protests against his “Azad Kashmir and India-occupied Kashmir” remarks, CPM-backed Kerala legislator and former minister K T Jaleel on Saturday withdrew his controversial statements.
On Friday, referring to his visit to Srinagar, Jaleel in a detailed Facebook post had called the Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as “Azad Kashmir”. Regarding Jammu and Kashmir, Jaleel said “India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir,’’ which comprises Jammu, Kashmir valley and Ladakh. He had also criticised the Union government’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
His comments had sparked protest in Kerala with BJP demanding that a sedition case be registered against Jaleel, who had served as the higher education minister in the previous CPM government led by Pinarayi Vijayan.
On Saturday, the protest against Jaleel became harsher with Congress demanding Vijayan to make clear his stand on the controversial statements of his party-backed legislator. Although CPM did not officially comment on the issue, party central committee member and State Minister for Local Self Government Department M V Govindan distanced from Jaleel. “CPM has a very clear stand on Kashmir issue. What Jaleel stated about Kashmir is not a party stand. I don’t know on what basis he stated so. Only Jaleel can explain it,’’ he said.
Congress legislator and Opposition Leader V D Satheesan said the comments of Jaleel are against the interest of the country. “No Indian would use the words Jaleel had stated,’’ he said.
As protest mounted, Jaleel turned to Facebook, “I have noticed that some of my words have created misunderstanding. My note on Kashmir visit had been misconstrued. I inform everybody that I had withdrawn those lines in my note to ensure social harmony and for the benefit of society,’’ he said.
Earlier, in the day, Jaleel had tried to defend his controversial statements saying that he had put Azad Kashmir in inverted comma and only those who don’t understand inverted comma are criticising him.
But, he was forced to withdraw the statements in the evening after he sensed more trouble was in store for him.
BJP state president K Surendran had said his comments are “against the sovereignty and integrity of the country”. “He has no right to continue as a legislator for a moment. His comment on PoK as Azad Kashmir is against the country’s sovereignty. He should be booked for sedition. His Facebook post had distorted the Kashmir history and depicted the uniformed forces in poor light. At the same time, we can expect only such an anti-India stand from a former SIMI leader,” Surendran said.
In his controversial Facebook post, Jaleel had stated that during the Partition, Kashmir was also divided into two. “Both Kashmirs were given the right of self-determination by the British. Sheikh Abdullah and his beloved countrymen sided with India. Pandit Nehru gave them special status as a reward for that. People are saddened that the special status was taken away without their consent,’’ he said.
Jaleel had said Kashmir’s face is not bright enough. “Gun-trotting soldiers everywhere. Policemen also have guns slung over their shoulders. Olive green (of the Army) is the colour of Kashmir for decades. Armed soldiers can be seen every hundred metres… There was sadness on the faces of the common people. It seems that Kashmiris have become a people who have forgotten to laugh. Army trucks and military presence seem to be a part of the daily life for Kashmiris. All political leaders are under house arrest. Political activity has stopped for months. There is a kind of indifference lurking everywhere. Anger can be read from the faces of people against the Modi government, which had cut Kashmir into three. There is a feeling of alienation in the Kashmiri heart. Central government should make systematic efforts to change it,’’ he said.
Jaleel’s name had figured in the sensational gold smuggling case, which had emerged during the previous LDF regime. Central agencies, including NIA, had questioned him in connection with the case, and had found that he had violated protocol on several occasions. Jaleel, who had started his political life as an activist of SIMI, later became a firebrand leader of Indian Union Muslim League. In 2006, he quit the IUML and joined hands with the CPM. Since then, he has been a CPM-backed legislator and during the previous regime, he served as higher education minister. Towards the fag end of the term, he was forced to quit after Lokayukta found charges of nepotism against him.