BJP MLCs raise uproar over ban on Abhinav Gupt yatra, sit calm over Dy CM's signal
Ajatshatru says Govt is spending 100 crore a year over separatists' luxuries, has no PSOs, vehicles for MLCs
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, June 10: The ruling BJP's members in Legislative Council on Friday raised an uproar over the senior PDP leader and Education Minister Naeem Akhtar's statement that the government would not permit any pilgrimage to Abhinav Gupt caves situated on a hillock in Beerwah township of Budgam district in Central Kashmir. They, however, sat calm as soon as the senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh signalled them to stop even as he did not subsequently respond to the BJP MLC Ajatshatru Singh's allegation the state government was spending a whopping Rs 100 crore a year over the luxuries and security of the separatist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir.
With the beginning of the Question Hour in the Upper House, BJP MLCs Romesh Arora, Ashok Khajuria, Vibodh Gupta raised a pandemonium over what they called "state's interference in the religious matters of a community under the pressure of the Kashmiri separatists". They demanded revocation of the "ban" on the proposed yatra.
A New Delhi based organization, Acharya Abhinav Gupt Sheshadri Samroh Samiti, has announced to conduct the first pilgrimage to the caves in the second week of June.
An amalgam of different organizations headed by the founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravi Shanker, the Samiti had said it will conduct the yatra to fulfil the spiritual aspiration.
However, much on the expected lines, the Samiti's plan evoked sharp reactions from the Kashmiri separatist leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Asiya Andrabi and Nayeem Khan as they invariably dismissed it as part of religious and cultural aggression by the Hindu foundations supported by the BJP-RSS combine. Geelani referred to a ruling of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, claiming that there was no religious or historical significance to the caves in Beerwah.
The separatists as well as the militants have declared that they would not allow the yatra in any circumstances. Subsequently, the government spokesperson Naeem Akhtar made it clear that the PDP-BJP government, led by Mehbooba Mufti, would not permit the yatra. He asserted that the government had not received any application, seeking permission or security to the Abhinav Gupt pilgrimage.
Scenes of at least one Bollywood blockbuster had been filmed at the caves in 1980s.
“Banning Abhinav Gupt yatra is like banning Baba Nund Reshi,” BJP MLC Romesh Arora contended in the Upper House. He and other MLCs of BJP charged the government with "succumbing to the separatists’ pressure".
“In a secular state you cannot ban religious activities. Government should immediately revoke the ban and allow the yatra,” BJP MLC Ashok Khajuria asserted. MLC Vibodh Gupta said the Abhinav Gupt cave is a “sacred place” for Hindu’s and the government cannot disallow devotees from visiting it. “History is witness that this cave is mentioned in the religious scriptures,” Gupta said.
Deputy Chief Minister, Nirmal Singh, who was present in the House, signalled his party colleagues to calm down and take their seats. They responded to him obediently.
Meanwhile Minister of Tourism in Farooq Abdullah's government in 1996-2002 and now BJP MLC, Ajatshatru Singh, lamented in Zero Hour that the state government was not providing necessary security and vehicles to the MLCs even as, according to him, it was spending an amount of Rs 100 crore of the taxpayers' money every year on the protection and luxuries of the separatist leaders. He claimed that a whopping amount of Rs 500 crore had been spent on the separatist leaders in the last five years.
Ajatshatru claimed that as many as 950 Policemen had been deployed for the security of the separatist leaders even as no PSOs were being provided on repeatedly made requests and requisitions of the MLCs. None of the Ministers, either of PDP or of BJP chose to respond to Ajatshatru Singh.