Opposition legislators climbed atop tables and clashed with security officers, forcing the Jammu and Kashmir assembly to adjourn on Monday after the Speaker disallowed a discussion on a beef ban that has been a charged issue in the northern state.
A Congress leader and a marshal were injured in the scuffle that came on a day the Supreme Court put the prohibition on hold for two months and asked the state high court to form a three-judge bench to decide the matter.
Members of the National Conference and other opposition parties rushed into the well of the House while shouting slogans against the PDP-BJP government and calling Speaker Kavinder Gupta an “RSS man”.
“Our issue was if the legislators have the power to amend or change laws why did the Mufti Sayeed government approach the Supreme Court. They did this so that they can call the matter sub-judice and avoid a discussion on it,” said NC leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah. “(Chief minister) Mufti Sayeed is undermining the powers of this House for personal gains.”
The state government moved to the apex court after the Srinagar and Jammu wings of the high court gave conflicting orders on the beef ban rule.
The Jammu bench last month directed state police to ensure strict compliance of a colonial-era law banning the sale of beef, but a week later the high court’s Srinagar bench issued a notice to the government on a petition that asked for the restriction to be removed.
The matter has emerged as a nettlesome test for the ideologically divergent PDP and BJP that tied up to form the J&K government this year after voters delivered a fractured mandate.
The NC, CPI(M) and an independent MLA have submitted separate bills seeking revocation of a section of the 1932 Ranbir Penal Code that is applicable in J&K, which says voluntary slaughter of oxen, bulls, cows and calves is punishable with up to 10 years of imprisonment as well as a financial penalty.
India leads other nations in beef exports, but the BJP and many Hindu organisations have been pushing for a nationwide ban on cow slaughter despite resistance from several minority groups that have called such attempts attacks on individual freedom.
The issue has stoked sectarian tensions in parts of the country in recent months with an irate mob killing a Muslim villager in Uttar Pradesh last week amid rumours that he butchered a calf.
Watch: Ruckus in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly over beef ban, flood relief
Apart from the beef ban, the Opposition also attacked the state government in the assembly over an elusive relief package a year after devastating floods ravaged Jammu and Kashmir, leaving hundreds dead and thousands homeless.
Rival parties said chief minister Mufti Sayeed’s PDP had reinforced the “feeling of alienation” in Srinagar by aligning with the BJP which “was not keen on helping people in the Valley”.
“The Prime Minister had promised relief money would be transferred directly to the victims. Where is that relief?” asked senior Congress leader Usman Majid. “The fact is the BJP is not interested in rehabilitation and PDP has nothing to tell the people.”