Kichloo Re-inducted, Restored All Portfolios

Kichloo Re-inducted, Restored All Portfolios

21 December 2013
Kashmir Times
Shuchismita

Jammu: Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo, who had resigned on August 12, 2013 after coming under fire for his alleged role in communal flare-up in Kishtwar, was re-inducted in the state cabinet Saturday within a day after exonerated by Justice Gandhi Commission of any involvement in the incident. He was restored all five portfolios as Minister of State including Home and independent charge of Industries and Commerce, which he had lost exactly 4 months and nine days ago, following his resignation. Governor N N Vohra, on the recommendation of the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, administered him the Oath of Office and Secrecy as Minister of State at Raj Bhawan this afternoon. Later in the evening, the Chief Minister, in pursuance of Rule 5 of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Business Rules, assigned him the charge of the Minister of State (independent charge) Industries and Commerce. Besides he will hold the charge of Minister of State for Home, R&B and Mechanical Engineering, Housing & Urban Development, Tourism & Culture. Kichloo’s re-induction took place after he was given a clean chit in the interim report submitted by Justice Gandhi Commission, constituted to probe into August 9 communal violence in Kishtwar, to the government. Bharatiya Janata Party promptly announced two-day Jammu region bandh call from tomorrow against his exoneration and re-induction into the state cabinet. Yet the buoyant National Conference leaders not only chose to give it a big ignore but also obliquely as well as directly trained their guns on it (BJP) and their another bete-noire PDP for, what it was described as, “victimizing Kichloo under a well-hatched conspiracy to reap electoral benefits.” In the report, Justice Gandhi recommended that Kichloo be treated as a victim and not as an accused. Interestingly, the alliance partner Congress generally preferred to adopt a studied silence. Though the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad too was present in the oath ceremony yet he refused to talk to media on the occasion. During the oath ceremony, the Chief Minister too evaded media although he gave his reaction in another function at Srinagar on this count. After the oath ceremony, Kichloo in his first reaction aimed oblique barbs at both BJP and PDP. He stated he emerged unscathed out of this conspiracy and a mischievous design by some power-hungry politicians, wary of his growing popularity, because Allah was with him and he was innocent with a clear conscience. Interacting with media on this occasion, Kichloo cautioned, “Through your medium, I like to caution the people of state, those from Chenab valley in particular, that all out efforts would be made to disturb the fabric of communal harmony as elections are round the corner. This disturbance was purely related to election process and such attempts will continue till the culmination of this process,” he said. Substantiating his point, he stated that similar one attempt was made in Kishtwar in 2008, but the years 2009, 2010. 2011 and 2012 passed off peacefully.” “But it occurred again in 2013 as elections are yet again round the corner. Such attempts to disturb communal harmony will continue till elections,” Kichloo said. Spelling out his priorities after his re-induction in the state cabinet, he said that his priority had always been to serve people and would continue to be so. He said his dedication for this mission could be gauged with a simple fact that his office in Civil Secretariat would remain opened for 11-12 hours even during routine days as compared to other offices which would function for eight hours He refused to comment over 2-day bandh call given by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in protest against his re-induction in the state cabinet, saying, “I don’t know anything about BJP and moreover I won’t like to comment on this issue,” was Kichloo’s one-liner. When asked as what steps he would take to improve his image which suffered a dent on this account, his answer was, “As far as my image is concerned, I’m a grass-root level worker. In the wake of my clean image, my popularity was growing day by day among the masses. My opponents, wary of my popularity, conspired against me to dent my image and this all was outcome of their scheming against me. But Allah is with me and that’s why I’ve emerged unscathed out of this conspiracy. Otherwise, everyone knew what type of circumstances was created by these forces on August 12. But I did not take even a minute to leave the chair.” How he would win the confidence of minority community shaken by this incident, in response to this query, Kichloo said he was enjoying the support of both the communities and there was no truth in the reports that the minority community had lost its faith in him. “Fortunately, the incident was not a Hindu-Muslim communal flare-up. Yeh Sirf Political Fasaad Hai… Tazaad Hai Aur Kuchh Bhi Nahin. (This is just a disturbance triggered for political motives….this was a case of differences in the wake of circumstances thus created).” Was it a case of justice delayed for him as Commission took over three months to submit its interim report on communal flare-up in Kishtwar on August 9? Kichloo’s answer to this query was, “Commission has its own mechanism of functioning and it works under a set process and takes its own time. Although the state cabinet had given it a direction to submit its findings within four-weeks but later this time period was extended understanding its practical difficulties.” In a statement issued to the press later, Kichloo said it was a mere coincidence that he was in the district on the fateful day i.e., August 9, 2013 in connection with the death of his uncle and thus could defuse the crisis at start of mischief by fringe elements near the site of first occurrence of violence. “It was but for the timely action by the government that the situation was prevented from snowballing into an all open conflagration throughout the region with the potential to envelop the entire Northern India, Central India and even Western region of the country. Had I not been present there, the number of killings in Kishtwar and surrounding areas could have been high,” he said. Taking an oblique dig at BJP leader Arun Jaitley, he also referred to communal clashes in Ahmedabad, Muzaffarnagar. “Kishtwar is a small place compared to Ahmedabad, Muzaffar Nagar and like areas where communal clashes resulted in hundreds of deaths and destruction but the parliamentarian of one known party chose to rush to Jammu for having on spot assessment of the situation which never was done in more high intensity violence which gripped areas in other parts of country within so short time of occurrence,” Kichloo mentioned. Minister for Planning and Development Ajay Kumar Sadhotra, responding to media queries about BJP’s Bandh call, said that it (BJP) was trying to make an issue out of non-issue. He dismissed the allegation that clean chit to Kichloo by Justice Gandhi Commission was politically motivated. “He (Kichloo) had resigned taking high moral grounds listening to his conscience till the culmination of judicial inquiry. His stand of being innocent has now been vindicated by the Commission. So he has been re-inducted after having exonerated of charges fabricated against him by the Commission duly set up under the rule of law. We’ve full faith in judiciary. If they’re opposing the interim report, this means they don’t respect judiciary and they don’t have faith in our judicial system,” Sadhotra said. During the oath ceremony, besides the Chief Minister and Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, other dignitaries present on the occasion included Amrit Malhotra, Chairman, Legislative Council; Mubarak Gul, Speaker, Legislative Assembly, A R Rather, Finance Minister; Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed, Minister for Haj and Auquaf; Mian Altaf Ahmad, Minister for Forests, Taj Mohi-ud-Din, Minister for Medical Education; Nawang Rigzin Jora, Minister for Urban Development; Choudhary Mohammed Ramzan, Minister for CAPD; Ajay Sadhotra, Minister for Planning, Raman Bhalla, Minister for Housing; Mir Saifullah, Minister for Law; Abdul Majid Wani, Minister for R&B; Qamar Ali Akhoon, Advisor to Chief Minister; Javed Ahmad Rana, Deputy Chairman, Legislative Council; Shabir Ahmad Khan, Minister of State for Health; Feroz Ahmad Khan, Minister of State for Science and Technology; Viqar Rasool Wani, Minister of State for Technical Education; Jalil Ahmad Khan, Economic Advisor to J&K government; legislators, Mohammed Iqbal Khandey, Chief Secretary Ashok Prasad, Director General of Police; senior civil and police officers and political leaders. The Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Sham Lal Sharma, Minister for Tourism G A Mir, Minister for Agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir, Minister of State for Cooperatives Dr Manohar Lal Sharma were conspicuous by their absence.