Chequered Past of the Two BJP Ministers Who Rallied Behind Kathua Rape Accused
The chargesheet filed by the CBI also alleged the plot was carried to “dislodge the Bakarwal community in Rassana”, the village in Kathua district where the eight-year-old lived.
Chander Prakash Ganga (left) and Chaudhary Lal Singh, BJP MLAs who handed over their resignations to the CM.
The two BJP ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government, Chandra Parkash Ganga and Lal Singh, who defended the men arrested for raping and murdering an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua, submitted their resignations to state BJP president Sat Sharma on Friday evening.
In a protest march in Jammu’s Kathua district on March 4 to demand the release of a special police officer (SPO) accused of raping and murdering an eight-year-old girl, the presence of two Bharatiya Janata Party ministers was unmissable.
Chaudhary Lal Singh, minister for forest, and Chander Prakash Ganga, minister for commerce and industries, attended an event organised by Hindu Ekta Manch, an outfit that has been protesting against the arrests in the case. Both the ministers had addressed the rally and called the police action against the rape accused as 'jungle raj'. While addressing the protesters, Ganga said, "I don't understand this investigation. Why they have arrested a 14-year-old, a 22-year-old, a 28-year-old and a 37-year-old. How is this possible?"
Reportedly, the other BJP MLA, Chaudhary Lal Singh, had also “brazenly supported” the agitators and questioned the entire police investigation. "If you launch an agitation, do it with full force or sit at home. What's this Section 144? This one girl has died and there is so much of investigation. There have been many deaths of women here," Singh had said. Now a video, said to be shot on March 4th, has surfaced, where Singh is seen saying, "Police is not arresting people who chant anti-India slogans, who burn the tri-colour, but they have arrested people here. I want you to stay put on your resolve and I am with you. I support you for your demand of shifting this case to the CBI."
Many reports are now suggesting a possible divide between the Gujjar and the Hindu community in Kathua. The chargesheet filed by the CBI also alleged the plot was carried to “dislodge the Bakarwal community in Rassana”, the village in Kathua district where the eight-year-old lived. This, however, is not the first time the two leaders have been part of a controversy. There have been other instances, too, where Sigh and Ganga were found fishing the troubled waters.
In May 2016, when a group Gujjar community had gone to Choudhary Lal Singh’s residence in Jammu in connection with an issue pertaining to their orchard land, he allegedly went to the extent of threatening the Gujjars with a repeat of the 1947 massacre of Muslims. Singh was referring to the incident in November 1947 when thousands of Muslims were killed in Jammu by paramilitaries led by the army of Dogra ruler Hari Singh.
Following Singh’s statement, the Gujjar community leaders filed a complaint saying that the “minister started using abusive language” without listening to them, and asked whether they have “forgotten the 1947 massacre of Muslims in the region”. When the opposition and separatists sought his resignation, Singh denied making the threat and said he would quit if the complainants repeated the charge in front of him.
Interestingly, Singh later on told the media that he was actually referring to the temperature in Jammu city. “They (the Gujjar delegation) had come seeking my intervention to get their truck-loads of wood released from forest officials. While refusing to oblige them, what I said was that the temperature in Jammu that day was 47 degrees C due to reckless felling of green trees, and that this would not be tolerated anymore,” he told the reporters.
In March 2015, when Singh was the Minister for Health and Medical Education, a female doctor in J&K had sought the registration of a criminal case against him for allegedly misbehaving with her in public. Dr Gurmeet Kour, registrar of the state-run Hospital for Psychiatry Diseases, had said that Singh shouted at her in public, leaving her “mentally harassed and wrecked”.
The event was also caught on camera. In response, Singh had claimed that it was an attempt to prevent him from bringing an improvement in the health facilities in J&K. Singh, who was an MLA from Basholi constituency in 1996 and 2002 was inducted into the state cabinet as Minister for Health and Medical Education in Congress-PDP coalition government. In 2004, he was elected as an MP in the 14th Lok Sabha from Udhampur constituency. In 2009, he went on to be elected as an MP from the same constituency.
However, in August 2014, Singh parted ways with the Congress after being denied ticket during the 16th Lok Sabha elections and formally joined the BJP in the presence of party president Amit Shah at a function in Kathua. Chander Prakash Ganga, another BJP minister who was also part of the rally, questioned the investigations and told the protesters, “We too want that the real accused be punished but we will not allow people to be picked up randomly.”
In April last year, Ganga had called for use of bullets on stone pelters in the valley. “There is only one remedy for them and that is bullets. And if not bullets, they should be given punishments like the youths who are beaten with sticks by forces. Take my word that next time they (the youth) won’t throw stones,” Ganga was quoted as saying by the local media.
The minister, however, had expressed “regret” over his remarks later. Ganga’s ‘unfair’ relationship with the Gujjar community had come out in the public earlier too. In 2015, Ganga had said, “Gujjar families should be evicted from Samba to start work on construction of an all-India institute of medical sciences (AIIMS)”.
In 2014, while campaigning for the election, Ganga had said, “Once I am elected, I assure that Muslims in Sarore and Vijapur will be evicted, come what may.” Ganga, who represents the Vijaypur Assembly constituency was also accused by the locals of “aiding in creating a hostile environment for Muslim Gujjars during the 2008 Amarnath land row agitation.”
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