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Uproar in J&K Legislature over Women's Bill

By Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR, AUG. 23. There was pandemonium in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council today over the controversial J&K Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill, 2004.

Members, raising slogans for and against the Bill, moved menacingly towards one another but were separated by the marshals. Both the Council and the Assembly were later adjourned for the day.

The Opposition National Conference (NC) stalled the proceedings in the Assembly but the scenes witnessed in the Council were unprecedented.

Unruly scenes

The Council Chairman, Abdur Rasheed Dar, continued to take up questions amid the slogan-shouting and, at one stage, the Panthers Party member, Bhim Singh, and P. Namgayal of the Congress entered into an argument with the NC members. The verbal duel, however, took an ugly turn when the NC legislators alleged that Mr. Singh, as also the Minister of State for Rural Development, Gharu Ram, used "unparliamentary language" against them.

The NC members then rushed to the well of the House and started throwing papers all around and overturned furniture. A microphone was thrown towards Mr. Singh. This forced the Chairman to adjourn the House for the day. The members of the ruling coalition also went to the well of the House and a Minister tried to hurl a wooden railing towards the protesting NC members. However, a Council marshal stopped him from doing so.

The Bill denies the women of Jammu and Kashmir their State subject status and associate benefits in case they marry outsiders. It was passed by the Assembly on March 5. The Council, did not take any decision on the Bill, which in the meantime lapsed. Now it has been returned to the Assembly.

While the ruling People's Democratic Party supports the Bill, the Congress, its major coalition partner, now opposes it. It initially supported the Bill, but following criticism from many quarters, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, ahead of the elections, it changed its stand. The NC too favours the Bill, demanding that it be tabled in the House in its original form.

Similar scenes

The scene in the Assembly was no different. As soon as the proceedings began, the NC members, led by their leader, Abdur Raheem Rather, called for adopting the adjournment motion. They demanded an immediate discussion on the Bill. The Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was unable to make a statement, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House for half an hour initially.

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