Don''t typecase Muslims or Kashmiris: Omar
18 December 2001
The Asian Age
New Delhi: BJP members sitting in the treasury benches of the Lok Sabha were dumb struck on Tuesday when Union minister of state for external affairs Omar Abdullah, pleaded that every Muslim in India should not be branded a Pakistani or every Kashmiri a terrorist. Mr Abdullah represents the National Conference in the ruling NDA coalition at the Centre. Mr Abdullah’s plea came after a 20-minute speech which fully expressed the NC’s support to the Centre on Poto while attacking its critics for their insensitivity to the need of the country to combat terrorism. All through this course, the treasury benches and especially the BJP members applauded Mr Abdullah by thumping their desks. However, the sole NC representative in the Centre reserved his most telling comment for the end, causing an uproar with Opposition members from the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Left parties and the Congress who asked Mr Abdullah to address his fellow members on the other side of the House much to the embarrassment of the BJP members. Mr Abdullah qualified his statement by referring to the recent Delhi police campaign which seems to have painted as terrorists, all Kashmiri apple and dry fruit traders coming to the city. Mr Abdullah reminded the members of the House that the Jammu and Kashmir policemen, many of them Muslims, were also combating terrorism and dying at the hands of terrorists. He added that their sacrifice or commitment to the cause of secularism and India’s integrity and sovereignty was no less than of any others. While Mr Omar Abdullah was mostly supportive of the Centre on the issue of the attack on Parliament, Samata Party member Prabhunath Singh, was more direct in his criticism. He expressed surprise on the ability of terrorists to reach the outer periphery of Parliament even though the Centre had prior knowledge of a possible strike. Mr Singh also asked why nothing was done to nab Zakir Husain college lecturer Abdul Rehman Geelani, who was later caught by the police if the Centre was keeping a tab on his activities all along. Mr Singh also asked why the terrorists were not nabbed earlier even though intelligence agencies were aware of their movements to and fro in fruit-laden trucks. Mr Prabhunath Singh then asked the Centre to go to war with Pakistan recalling how in the Mahabharata Kunti, the mother of the Pandvas had ordained her sons to fight the war with the Kauravas. Mr Singh told the Prime Minister, it is time now to go to war to defend India’s honour and dignity. He said, “I want to tell the Prime Minister and the home minister that you have to achieve your objective. Even if you have to cross the border, cross it for there is no other alternative, otherwise this will seriously damage your prestige.” On somewhat similar lines, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee exhorted the Centre not to back out of taking on Pakistan saying, “if they have a nuclear bomb so do we, don’t fear anything.” Ms Banerjee alleged that the ISI was after her but she was not scared. She asked the Opposition to gloss over the failures of the Centre, recalling how America stood solidly behind US President George W. Bush after September 11. Telugu Desam Parliamentary Party leader K. Yerran Naidu praised the Centre for having banned the People’s War Group. But the most submissive and meek among the allies was Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK) member Adi Shankar who pleaded for support of the Government in the name of unity and integrity of the country. The Samata Party MP said that he was happy that security men outside Parliament defeated the designs of the terrorists but told the House that the attack put fear in the heart of ministers of this Government sitting in Parliament House while the watch and ward staff was fighting the terrorists. To that extent he said, the terrorists at least partially succeeded in their mission.