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August 7, 2000
Congress demands judicial probe into J&K massacres
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The Congress was isolated in Parliament on Monday over its attempt to demand a judicial probe into the recent massacre in Jammu and Kashmir, even as former prime minister Chandrashekhar snubbed it, saying that "merely shouting" would not get the desired result.
The Lok Sabha and Rajya were adjourned over the Congress furore, with the treasury benches and some Opposition members clashing with the former.
The issue was raised in the Lok Sabha by Congress deputy leader Madhavrao Scindia, who demanded Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani's resignation, contending that Union Defence Minister George Fernandes had admitted to security lapses being instrumental for the massacre.
"This government is unfit to rule," Scindia remarked, triggering counter-shouts from the other section of the House. He said his party would not remain silent as "the government has taken the massacre of over 100 innocent casually and we cannot keep quiet on such a serious issue, which requires a judicial inquiry."
Communist Party of India-Marxist Lok Sabha leader Somnath Chatterjee, however, did not favour a judicial inquiry, saying it would be a time-consuming process during which the debate on the matter would be "scotched in the House."
He said, "I don't know why our Congress friends are demanding a judicial inquiry when an immediate response from the government is what we need on the issue.''
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan pointed out that prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made a statement on the massacre last Friday, when Chatterjee and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav were not present in the House.
Mahajan emphasised that the government was not "making it [ judicial inquiry] a prestige issue and if necessary it could be instituted. Vajpayee too had made a similar assertion earlier in the House.
But the Congress benches, notably Pawan Kumar Bansal, Renuka Chaudhary and Priyaranjan Dasmunshi shouted that their party would not be satisfied till the government instituted the inquiry. Pandemonium prevailed with the Congress and treasury benches venting lung-power and trading charges. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi watched the proceedings from her seat.
Mulayam Singh Yadav pointed out that the Opposition was not making the massacre a political issue since it affected the nation. He wanted the prime minister to make a statement on the issue.
At this juncture, Scindia reiterated his party's desire for a judicial inquiry, making the angry Samajwadi Party chief to ask him to take his seat. Both leaders gesticulated wildly to prove their points of view, much to the glee of the treasury benches.
Chandrashekhar rose to intervene and pointed out, "I don't think in the history of this House the government has instituted a judicial inquiry merely on the basis of shouting."
The former prime minister's assertion was made at Scindia and the treasury benches welcomed it by thumping the tables.
Chandrashekhar suggested that a government delegation and Opposition leaders should meet in Speaker G M C Balyogi's chamber "to thrash out a way out for discussing the massacre in the House." But when the Congress benches persisted, the Speaker adjourned the House till 1400 hours.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Congress stance on the issue seemed mixed. While party leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad wanted a judicial inquiry, others like Suresh Pachauri wanted a discussion in the House. The resultant furore by the Congress and a matching response from the other section of the House led to an adjournment by the chairperson.
Perceiving that Vajpayee had also admitted that there had been security lapses, the Congress decided to persist with its demand.
"Why is this government scared to hold a judicial inquiry, the massacre of over 100 people is not a flippant issue which the prime minister and his team can take so casually," Scindia told rediff.com. "I have said in the Lok Sabha that this government is unfit to rule and I am convinced that the people will not forgive this government as it continues to proceed on its misguided course."
However, it was apparent that the Congress was the lone voice among Opposition parties in demanding a judicial inquiry.
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