Mehbooba Mufti loses cool, ends press conference with Rajnath still seated
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday lost her cool during a press conference she was addressing jointly with Home Minister Rajnath Singh when journalists grilled her on her role in dealing with the current unrest in the Kashmir Valley.
Mehbooba abruptly ended the press conference when a journalist said she had swapped roles and views with her predecessor Omar Abdullah on the protests.
She suddenly got up, saying "thank you", after replying to a question even as Rajnath was seated. He also then got up reluctantly and the press interaction at her residence ended.
Mehbooba faced some tough questions on alleged disproportionate use of force by security forces on protesters. A journalist reminded that as opposition leader, she had criticised the Omar Abdullah government in 2010 for civilian killings.
"Don't mix or compare the two situations. In 2010 there was a fake encounter. Today three militants were killed, how is the government to be blamed?" she said.
She added, "People have come onto the roads. We imposed curfew. Did the children go to army camps to buy toffees (candy)? Was the 15-year-old boy, who attacked the police station at Damhal Hanjipora (in south Kashmir), going there to get milk?"
"95 per cent of those killed -- mostly youth -- have died in retaliatory action while they were attacking the security establishments," the Chief Minister said.
Mehbooba sought to explain the manner in which casualties took place, particularly of the youngsters, over which there has been an uproar.
At the same time, she said she supported action against those security personnel who were involved in the killing of a lecturer in Khrew area of Pulwama district earlier this month.
"There is the case of lecturer. An inquiry should be held and punishment should be given the culprits. I support it," Mehbooba said.
As journalists kept asking questions about her role in dealing the situation, Singh tried to mediate by telling the scribes: "Mehbooba ji is from among you".
However, Mehbooba was combative, saying, "What will they tell me? I have saved the youth of south Kashmir from Task Force (Special Operations Group of Police). I have saved them from the knives when they were taken for bonded labour."
Even as Rajnath Singh repeatedly tried to calm her by tapping her, Mehbooba underscored that "Violent means have no place anywhere in the world" and "if you want to defame an issue, you resort to violence."
A reporter suggested that Mehbooba had changed her stance after coming to power since as an opposition leader during the 2010 agitation she had criticised the Omar Abdullah goverment for wanton arrests and caging of separatist leaders but was following the same tactics while in power.
The Chief Minister responded: "Your analysis is wrong. In 2010, there was a reason. There was a fake encounter in Macchil in which three civilians were killed. Then there were allegations of rape and murder (of twon women) in shopian. That means there was a reason for people's anger.”
"This year an encounter took place. Three militants were killed. What was the fault of the government?" she questioned.
While responding to questions, Mehbooba condemned stone- pelting and other forms of violence being witnessed in Kashmir for the last 47 days and suggested that casualties will take place when camps of security forces and police pickets and police stations are attacked by violent mobs.
With regard to her earlier remarks about 95 per cent people of Kashmir not supporting the agitation, she said, "What I meant was that people want resolution of issues peacefully but 5 per cent people who resort to violence have hijacked the issue. They are used as shields by the miscreants to attack the security camps. They want poor young people to get killed and blinded. Don't you understand this?"
"I am for resolution of Kashmir issue. There should be dialogue. But by resorting to stone-pelting and attacking the camps, no issue will be resolved. We are not sidelining the issue. We want resolution," she asserted.