Chaos in Kashmir assembly over NC worker's death

Mikes uprooted, a fan hurled and house papers torn... the Jammu and Kashmir assembly descended into chaos Monday as the People's Democratic Party (PDP) took up the alleged custodial death of a ruling National Conference (NC) worker and the speaker and an opposition leader traded abuses.

The ugly scenes forced three adjournments of the assembly, the last one for the day. A sombre Chief Minister Omar Abdullah could be seen watching the goings-on silently.

The trouble started in the morning as the assembly session started when PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti sought an adjournment of the house. She wanted the house to suspend question hour and start a debate on the alleged custodial killing of Haji Muhammad Yusuf on Sep 30.

"A discussion on the matter is hardly justified at this stage and can prove counter-productive as state government has requested the chief justice to appoint a sitting high court judge to probe the matter," Speaker Muhammad Akbar Lone maintained.

Later, the speaker got into a heated argument with Molvi Ifftekhar Hussain Ansari of the PDP over the issue when the house witnessed unprecedented scenes of unparliamentary behaviour.

The speaker adjourned the house initially twice and as the house met after the second adjournment, the speaker said he regretted the earlier happening in the house.

PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig wanted to raise some points over speaker's rejection but the members of the treasury benches including several ministers rose from their seats in protest forcing the second adjournment.

When the house assembled for the third time, the speaker expressed regret over his remarks against Ansari and directed that these be expunged from the records of the assembly.

"I regret what happened in the beginning. I have close relations with Ansari sahib and he has led me in prayers. The remarks be expunged from the record and media is requested not to carry the remarks," Lone said.

PDP president Mufti told reporters that the finger of suspicion in the alleged custodial killing pointed to the chief minister, his father, union minister Farooq Abdullah, and junior home minister Nasir Aslam Wani.

"What has come to light is that Omar became the interrogator, the judge and the executioner. A fair probe is not possible while they are in power," Mufti said.

National Panthers Party legislator Balwant Singh Makotia demanded a CBI probe into the mysterious death of Yusuf.

When the house assembled after the third adjournment, PDP legislators again stood up demanding that their leader and former deputy chief minister Baig be allowed to make a statement in the house.

When the speaker did not allow this, the PDP members stormed towards the speaker's podium shouting slogans like, "Katilon Ko Pesh Karo, Pesh Karo (Present the killers)".

As the chaos continued, the speaker adjourned the assembly for the day.

Yusuf, a land dealer from south Kashmir's Bijbehara town, died last week Friday, allegedly in police custody. He had been detained for questioning along with two other middle-rung leaders of the party, who alleged that Yusuf had taken a bribe of Rs.1.18 crore from them for getting one a minister's post and the other a legislator's seat.

The government said Yusuf had died in the local police hospital due to a heart attack.

The PDP, however, alleges that Yusuf died under mysterious circumstances after he was called to the house of the chief minister to explain his position.

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