BJP Leader Threatens Kashmiri Journalists Of ‘Shujaat-Like’ End

JAMMU — Controversial BJP leader Lal Singh Chaudhary, who was forced to resign in April as a minister in the Mehbooba Mufti government that fell this week, threatened Kashmiri journalists of a Shujaat-like incident, referring to the recent murder of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari.

Addressing a press conference in Jammu, Singh accused Kashmir’s journalists of creating a “vicious atmosphere” in the Valley and elsewhere in the border state. “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.... See what happened to him,” he said.

While Chaudhary mouthed it as Basharat, he apparently meant Bukhari, going by the circumstance. Basharat and Shujaat are brothers—the former having been a minister (of law) in the PDP-BJP government that collapsed on Tuesday. Shujaat Bukhari was shot dead outside his Srinagar office on June 14 by unidentified gunmen in an act the police described as “terror”.

Giving a hint at it, legislator Lal Singh on Friday asked Kashmiri journalists to “behave yourself” to “ensure brotherhood, progress and development”. The clipping of his statement has gone viral in the Valley.

 “Outrageous,” said the National Conference, condemning the remarks of 59-year-old Singh, who was forest minister in the Mehbooba Cabinet from where he was forced out this summer for joining rallies held in support of rape and murder accused of an eight-year-old Muslim nomad girl early this year. The party asked the police to take cognisance of the “threatening” statement. “We hope the law isn’t subverted,” an NC spokesman said.

The Congress, too, flayed the MLA’s threat to journalists. It was “shocking and reprehensible”, according to national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

At the state level, the party’s Salman Anees Soz said he was “not surprised” by Chaudhary’s behaviour. “He knows that in the BJP, the more vile you are the better your leadership prospects. He is trying to become a top leader of the Jammu BJP. This is what the BJP has to offer J&K.”

Chaudhary is not new to controversies. In 2016, he threatened a delegation of the state’s Gujjar farmers by reminding them of the 1947 massacre of Muslims in Jammu region following Partition. The leader later said he was referring to the “temperature”.

This spring, his brother Rajinder Singh abused Mehbooba Mufti when she was the chief minister. At a rally in Hiranagar that was also addressed by Chaudhary, Singh, who too supported the accused in the Kathua crime, had started protests and marches in Jammu against the PDP-BJP government’s stand in the case. Singh too was demanding the CBI probe in Kathua rape and murder.

Ever since his sacking (along with Chaudhary) from the Mehbooba ministry, Singh has tried to project himself as a Jammu leader, hitting out at everyone, including PDP leader Mehbooba and his own BJP leaders. In fact, in the recent past, he has taken out at least 25 rallies, where the leader would accuse BJP colleagues of “surrendering to Kashmir-centric leaders and separatists”.

Singh had also, on March 1, addressed a rally of the far-right Hindu Ekta Manch, which was formed in Jammu in protest against the arrest of the accused in the Kathua case.

As the Crime Branch investigation revealed that the eight-year-old girl was held captive, drugged, beaten up and repeatedly raped from January 10 to 15, public rage grew against Chaudhary and another minister Chander Prakash Ganga for addressing that Jammu rally. Ganga had told the gathering that the Crime Branch had created a “jungle raj” in the area, while Chaudhary had said, “One girl has been killed here now, but they don’t realise many women have gone missing since 1947.”

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