Srinagar, March 3: Media reports that quoted Farooq Abdullah as saying that Kashmiris are “the biggest thieves” have left the state’s ruling National Conference scurrying for cover. Farooq has denied making the remark.
The Union minister for new and renewable energy was quoted as saying: “Kashmiri chor nahin, maha chor hain (Kashmiris are not just thieves but the biggest thieves).”
The alleged comment has triggered angry reactions from separatists, mainstream groups and netizens and led to a furore in the Assembly here.
An agency report published in a local newspaper said Farooq’s purported comments came while he was referring to power theft in Jammu and Kashmir at a Delhi event yesterday.
“I never said anything about Kashmiris being thieves,” Farooq said today.
“I had said that it is unfortunate that we buy power for nearly 2-3 thousand crores, but we are not able to get that money back because there is a lot of pilferage of power. Many of our people are stealing power.”
In the Assembly today, members from the Opposition People’s Democratic Party and other parties slammed Farooq, alleging he was himself involved in scams.
Marshals escorted Independent member Sheikh Abdul Rasheed out after he accused the National Conference of being “a party of the biggest thieves” and demanded Farooq tender an unconditional apology.
People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti claimed the police had established Farooq’s complicity in a multi-crore scam involving the state cricket association. Reports about the scam had surfaced when Farooq headed the sports body a few years ago.
“The National Conference has the distinction of creating the richest politicians at the cost of the people, whose resources they have brazenly grabbed,” Mehbooba said.
“How can the National Conference be so shameless? They are the patrons of corruption and they are calling Kashmiris thieves.”
Hurriyat hardliners led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani alleged that Farooq and his party had sold out the state to New Delhi for personal gain.
“We cannot expect anything good from this man, who has always disparaged and ridiculed this nation. Farooq and his family members are mired in scandals and scams,” a Hurriyat spokesperson said.
National Conference sources said the party leadership was disturbed by the controversy, which comes ahead of the parliamentary and Assembly polls. State rural development minister Ali Mohammad Sagar told the House that Farooq never meant to denigrate Kashmiris.
“He only meant that the junior staff were instrumental in power theft,” Sagar said.