Lal Singh, a former minister in the erstwhile PDP-BJP government has sparked another controversy, threatening Kashmiri journalists of "Shujaat-like incident". The threat has come a week after the assassination of senior journalist and chief editor of Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari, shocking Kashmiri journalists.
While addressing a press conference at Jammu, Singh said Kashmiri journalists were creating a vicious atmosphere. "I warn them to draw a line in their journalism. They have to see how they want to live. Whether they want to live like Basharat (he meant Shujaat). See what happened to him," he said. He asked Kashmiri journalists to behave themselves to ensure brotherhood and progress and development. The video clip of his presser has gone viral in the Valley.
This is not for the first time Singh has spoken against journalists of Kashmir. Singh has blamed Kashmiri journalists for highlighting the rape and murder of the girl in Kathua, holding them responsible for his ouster as cabinet minister.
Singh, as minister for forests, environment and ecology, had attended a rally organised by Hindu Ekta Manch to seek the release of the accused arrested by police in connection with the rape and murder of the girl in Kathua. Singh attended the rally on 1 March and subsequently, the uproar over the cabinet minister attending the "pro-rapist" rally led to his ouster. Women activists across the country sought his ouster for attending the rally and the PDP had also demanded that if he was not forced to resign, the government could fall apart. Under pressure, in April, Singh was forced to resign.
However, soon after his sacking as minister, Singh started marches and protests in Jammu, terming himself as the only savior of Jammu pride. Singh would demand a CBI probe in the Kathua case and would accuse his own party of playing with the interests of Kashmir. In fact, in one of the rallies, his brother Rajinder Singh abused the then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
National Conference working president Omar Abdullah tweeted on Saturday: "Dear journalists, your colleagues in Kashmir just got threatened by a @BJP4India MLA. It seems Shujaat's death is now a tool for goons to use to threaten other journalists."
Omar's party also issued a statement, saying it strongly condemned the "outrageous remarks and threatening of Kashmiri journalists by BJP Leader and MLA Chaudhry Lal Singh."
"This merits immediate cognisance by the Kashmir police. We hope the law isn't subverted," it said.
Lal Singh told Firstpost on Saturday that he stood by his comment, and he was referring to the death of the journalist, "who was killed by people inimical to the peace in in Jammu and Kashmir."
"Omar Abdullah is trying to make journalists of Kashmir happy, reporters in Kashmir know him and me as well. All journalists in Kashmir should take a lesson from Bukhari's killing. They know who killed him," Singh told Firstpost, but did not elaborate on the remark and hung up the phone.
Congress leader Salman Anees Soz tweeted that he was not surprised by the behaviour of the BJP MLA. "I am not surprised by Lal Singh's condemnable behavior. He knows that in BJP, the more vile you are the better your leadership prospects. He is trying to become leader of Jammu BJP. This is what BJP has to offer J&K," he said in a tweet.
Singh has been tapping into the anger that has polarised the state along communal lines following the arrest of eight Hindus, who, according to the Jammu and Kashmir Police, planned the murder of the girl in order to terrorise the small nomadic Muslim community living in Rasana.
"Wow. BJP leader & former J&K minister Lal Singh who led rally for Kathua rape-accused, warned Kashmiri journalists of "Shujaat-like incident" for creating what he called a "wrong narrative regarding the Kathua rape-and-murder case"! Who are #Terrorists?," rights activist, Kavita Krishnan, tweeted.
Kashmiri journalist and commentator Gowhar Geelani wrote on twitter: "When an 8-year-old Muslim girl in Kathua was kidnapped, drugged, gangraped & murdered by members of the majority community, BJP MLA Ch Lal Singh threatened protesters by reminding them of the 1947 Jammu massacre. Now Lal Singh is threatening Kashmiri journalists. #LalSinghShame."