Opposition uproar over ‘missing’ Farooq as session begins

The Asian Age.

India, All India

The Opposition MPs termed the National Conference chief’s detention as illegal and demanded that he be allowed to attend the House.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union ministers arrive on the first day of the Winter Session at Parliament House on Monday. (Photo: Pritam Bandyopadhyay)

New Delhi: The Winter Session of Parliament began on Monday on a stormy note as a united Opposition targeted the government by raising the absence of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, a Lok Sabha MP, from the Lower House, and later walked out of the House over the issue.

Dr Abdullah’s could not attend the House as he has been in preventive custody under J&K’s Public Safety Act at his Srinagar residence after Article 370 was revoked by the Centre in August. The issue was raised on Monday by Trinamul Congress MP Saugata Roy as the members began settling into their seats.

“Sir ... Dr Farooq Abdullah yahan par nahi hain (Sir, Dr Farooq Abdullah is not here),” Mr Roy said immediately after the House assembled for the day. As Question Hour continued amid angry protests by the Opposition MPs (with many Congress members trooping into the well) and even Shiv Sena leaders protesting, in the Zero Hour Congress’ Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury launched a blistering attack on the government for barring MPs from visiting J&K while allowing members of the European Parliament to visit Srinagar.

“Our leader Rahul Gandhi was not allowed to visit (J&K), several MPs were sent back... Whereas bhade ke tattu (hirelings) from Europe were taken there. Isn’t it an insult to all MPs? I want to ask ruling alliance MPs... don’t they think it was their insult?” Mr Chowdhury said, amid protests from the treasury benches.

The Opposition MPs termed the National Conference chief’s detention as illegal and demanded that he be allowed to attend the House. They said the NC supremo has been under detention for 106 days, and that it was his constitutional right to attend the House.

Speaker Om Birla said that when home minister Amit Shah informed the House in the previous session that Dr Abdullah was not under detention, he was correct. The written information of his detention was received later by the Lok Sabha secretariat. He said now he has written information that Dr Abdullah is under detention.

DMK leader T.R. Baalu sought Mr Birla’s intervention in the matter, saying the Speaker was the custodian of the House and should ensure that members are allowed to attend the House. “What has happened with Farooq is illegal... You are the custodian of the House... You have to make an intervention,” Mr Baalu said.

The DMK leader also said the same was the case with PDP leader and former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and noted that her daughter had said that the PDP leader had been manhandled.

Making a passionate appeal that Dr Abdullah be allowed to attend the House, National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi said the former chief minister was under preventive custody, not under judicial custody, and that it can be revoked by the Speaker’s order.

“Farooq Sahab represents Srinagar and it is the right of the 20 lakh people of Srinagar that their voice be heard in this House... I have proof that he is not in judicial custody, he is in preventive custody. Your one order can revoke it,” Mr Masoodi said, addressing the Chair.