Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah today sparred in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly as the issue of setting up Sainik Colony in the Valley rocked both the houses of the state legislature with opposition demanding a clarification.
Rejecting a newspaper report on construction of the Colony, Mehbooba accused the opposition and some media outlets of raising a “non-issue” which can lead to disruption of peace in the state, while in Upper House her deputy Nirmal Singh asserted that “no construction for Sainik Colony is being done”.
Mehbooba lashed out Omar for his tweets on the controversy but the former Chief Minister hit back, saying it was to make her accountable and he won’t back down from speaking on issues of public interest through the social media. “My small tweets prick you. Your mood gets spoiled. If I make you accountable by tweeting, I will continue it. I won’t stop and I won’t apologise for it,” Omar said. The NC leader later took to Twitter saying, “This tweet is dedicated to @mufti_mehbooba who through her ill tempered assembly intervention made me realise how much she hates me tweeting.”
The issue of proposed colony for armed forces personnel was raised in the Assembly by Independent MLA Sheikh Abdul Rasheed. Waving a copy of the newspaper which had carried a report on construction of a Sainik Colony outside Old Airfield, the legislator stormed into the well of the House and sought a statement from the government on the issue.
An agitated Mehbooba said there was no truth in the story as the photograph published in the newspaper was that of Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) quarters being constructed for married serving personnel of the unit. “I do not know what these newspapers want? Do they want to put the state on fire? They should have investigated before publishing the story.
“The opposition members bring in these newspapers which I will not name as they want to get publicity. If anyone tries to disrupt peace, they will be dealt with sternly,” Mehbooba said. Targeting Omar, the Chief Minister said despite having been in the chair earlier, he has been tweeting about the issue. “Omar Abdullah attended four meetings (of the Sainik Board as CM) and in all four meetings, he directed that land be identified for setting up of Sainik Colony.
“Now, there is tweet, tweet, tweet,” Mehbooba said about the former chief minister frequently using the social media to put forth his opinions. The opposition benches protested against the Chief Minister’s outburst saying everything was not media created. Responding to Mehbooba’s charge, Omar said he has never denied being part of the meetings for setting up of Sainik Colony but had never “passed any order” like the one he had posted on twitter earlier last month.
The “order” which Omar posted was claimed to be a communication issued under the PDP-BJP government and read that the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir had agreed for allotment of 173 kanals of land on payment in the Old Airfield area for the Sainik Colony.
It said that after obtaining commitment from the beneficiaries, the number of aspirants “increased to 1,051, 26 officers, 125 JCOs and 900 of other ranks, requiring a total of 360 kanals of land. Accordingly, a revised proposal has been forwarded to the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir and the state home department”.
Omar said, “If there is any such order issued during my tenure, please bring it forth. If you are here for welfare of the people, I am also here so that people are benefited.” “I think when the Chief Minister is talking about setting the state on fire, she is confusing herself with me. My tenure is witness…. If we follow your footsteps, the state will be on fire,” he said.
Omar has opposed the setting up of the proposed colony, saying “it could be a ruse to settle non-state subjects in Kashmir and hence bypass Article 370”. The NC leader later tweeted, “Amazing how she attacked the media as well today. The newspapers must’ve made for uncomfortable reading this morning. Explains the mood!”
Meanwhile, the issue of Sainik Colony was also raised by the opposition in the Legislative Council as soon as the proceedings began. Chairman, Legislative Council, Anayat Ali tried to pacify the members, asking them to raise the issue after Question Hour, but to no avail. The members from NC and Congress said the people of the Valley were concerned the government should make a statement on whether the colony is being constructed or not.
After Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh made a statement on the issue, the opposition members let House function. “It is only a rumour and has no basis at all,” Singh said. “There is no such thing (construction of Sainik Colony). Some people are spreading rumours and trying to polarize the situation and set Jammu and Kashmir on fire,” Singh said. He said the army might be building quarters for its personnel inside the cantonment, but no construction for Sainik Colony is being done. “No such thing will take place which will harm the interests of Jammu and Kashmir,” the deputy chief minister said.