New Delhi: A press conference by independent MLA from Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdul Rashid turned into an event of hooliganism with a handful of activists allegedly belonging to a right-wing organisation blackening his face with paint, ink and mobil oil protesting against his hosting a beef party in Srinagar earlier this month.
J&K lawmaker Engineer Rashid (2nd R) holds up his hand after being blackened by ink by activists at the Press Club in New Delhi on Monday. Two activists have been detained over the attack said they were angry over Rashid's support for eating beef, local media said. Pic/AFP
Rashid had called the presser at Press Club here to brief media on the attack on two truck drivers by a mob at Udhampur in Jammu region, on October nine. One of the victims-- 19- year-old Zahid-- died at Safdurjung hospital here yesterday morning.
As he finished the press conference, Rashid, who is also known as 'Engineer Rashid', was held at the gate of the Press Club by some TV journalists for one-to-one interviews when some activists shouting slogans "gow mata ka apman, nahi sahega Hindustan (India will not tolerate any disrespect to cow)" pounced on him and painted him with black colour, mobil oil and blue ink.
Some of the TV journalists as well as policemen also received colours on their faces as well as clothes while trying to save the MLA from the mob.
Two people were detained by the police and whisked away to Parliament Street Police station while Rashid had to take refuge inside the Press Club till additional forces came in.
"They are mentally sick. I want the whole world to see this how these people are trying to muzzle the voice of Kashmiris," Rashid, who was beaten by BJP MLAs in the state assembly for hosting the beef party, said after the attack.
Within minutes of the incident, there was widespread condemnation pouring in from the state with Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed saying that the "spate in unpleasant incidents" is "most disturbing" and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah expressing concern saying that "this climate of intolerance and violence is very worrying."
"Attack on Eng. Rashid is unacceptable & condemned in the strongest possible terms. This climate of intolerance & violence is very worrying," Abdullah tweeted.
CPM MLA Mohd Yousuf Tarigami said the incident was "totally unacceptable". "It (incident) was totally unacceptable and violation of people's fundamental right to speak freely. Where are we heading?," he asked.
Later, Rashid was taken out of the Press Club by police personnel. He sat on dharna outside Jammu and Kashmir house in Chanakyapuri, along with his few supporters, demanding to be allowed to go to the Prime Minister's residence at Race Course Road.
Today's incident came after Rashid had made comments at the press conference about the beef party organised by him inside the MLA hostel in Srinagar.
"I do not eat beef, mutton, or chicken but that was a form of protest to tell the authorities that do not interfere in anyone's religion," Rashid had explained to reporters during the press conference when he was asked about his violating the sentiments of the people.
He demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologise for the Udhampur incident.
"If the UP government can be held responsible for Dadri incident, then BJP is equally responsible for the Udhampur incident along with its ally PDP," Rashid said.
The relatives of the two-- Zahid and Showkat, who were sleeping in the truck when it was attacked by a mob with petrol bombs--alleged that the Mufti Sayeed Government was "threatening, abusing and warning" their family members from speaking to the media.
"Mufti Sayeed will have to pay for this. Is this democracy that India boasts about. Its worst," Mohammed Ashraf, kin of Zahid, said after his face was also blackened.
Zahid's brother Mohammad Younus, who was also present in the presser along with Ashraf and Rashid, said his family was being threatened by the police and administration there.
"Sayeed did not speak to me or my family member. We were asked to contact his 'PRO Altaf Sahab'. Is this how they care for Kashmiri fellowmen?," he asked.
"Mufti Saheb should remember that we have voted him to power and not Ram Madhavs of BJP," he said.
28-year-old Younus said his brother is still in the hospital. "There is no word from the doctor. They send family members out of the ward when they take my brother for the daily dressing," he said.