J&K CM Has To Be A Kashmiri Muslim: NC

21 August 2014
Rising Kashmir
Faisul Yaseen

Srinagar: The statement of senior Congress leader and Minister for PHE, Sham Lal Sharma that the next chief minister of the State should be a Hindu has evoked harsh criticism from ruling National Conference (NC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but Congress is divided over the issue with the father-son duo of Saifuddin Soz and Salman Soz expressing differing views. Talking to Rising Kashmir, ruling National Conference Additional General Secretary, Mustafa Kamal termed the statement of Sharma as 'unfortunate' and called for stripping him of his ministerial portfolio for raising communal passions with his 'irresponsible statement'. He said that the prime minister or the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir not only has to be a Muslim but also from Kashmir valley. 'When Azad sahab became the chief minister, there was an outcry that he belongs to Doda and is not from Kashmir valley,' Kamal said. 'So he had to show that he had a residence in Srinagar and hails from Kashmir valley.' The NC leader said his party has secular credentials and would fight all forces that were trying to disturb harmony and secularism in the State. Sharma had on Wednesday told a Congress youth rally in Jammu that they must fight for a Hindu chief minister of the state. Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief spokesman and Member of Legislative Council (MLC), Naeem Akhtar wrote on Facebook: 'Anybody, a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Bhuddist, or an atheist can become a chief minister or hold a public office under our constitution. But seeking votes on the basis of religion is not permitted by law.. That is the issue involved in the debate sparked off in Shyam Lal's call. People are interested in having a chief minister or a minister who solves their problems irrespective of which religion he or she belongs to. Here the manifesto and credibility of a party are the touchstones not the religious preference of its leaders (sic).' According to 2011 Census, Jammu and Kashmir has a 72 percent Muslim population and almost every time a Muslim is elected as the chief minister of the State. Congress national spokesman Salman Anees Soz told Rising Kashmir that anybody from J&K regardless of economic background or social or religious background could become the chief minister. 'The chief minister should not be someone from a particular community,' Salman said. 'Whoever works for the improvement of all three regions should become the CM.' He said India was a Hindu majority but a secular country and a Sikh (Manmohan Singh) had gone on to become the two-time prime minister of India. Jammu and Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority state in India and since March 30, 1965, all eight chief ministers of the State Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq, Syed Mir Qasim, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah (two times), Farooq Abdullah (three times), Ghulam Muhammad Shah, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Omar Abdullah in their 11 terms have been Muslims. However, among the five prime ministers of the state from October 15, 1947, the first Prime Minister Mehr Chand Mahajan was a Hindu while the four others Sheikh Abdullah, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, Khawaja Shamsuddin and Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq were Muslims. Meanwhile, State Congress chief Saifuddin Soz said Sharma's opinion was his personal and not necessarily the views of Congress. 'Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu are a single entity and according to the State's constitution, any citizen can become the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir,' a local news gathering agency KNS quoted Soz as saying