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Kitchloo re-inducted in Kashmir cabinet, BJP protests

Kitchloo re-inducted in Kashmir cabinet, BJP protests

Jammu: A day after a panel probing communal violence in Jammu and Kashmir's Kishtwar gave him a clean chit, Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo was Saturday re-inducted as a minister in the Omar Abdullah government despite protests by the BJP.

Governor N.N. Vohra administered the oath of office and secrecy to Kitchloo as minister of state at Raj Bhavan here.

Omar Abdullah, union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, legislative council Chairman Amrit Malhotra, assembly Speaker Mubarak Gul, ministers, and senior civil and police officers were present at the ceremony.

The chief minister has assigned independent charge of industries and commerce department to Kitchloo, who would also hold charge of minister of state for home, R&B, mechanical engineering, housing and urban development, tourism and culture.

Kitchloo, after being sworn in, issued a statement, saying that after coming clean on many issues brought against him "under a mischievous design", he wanted to share "some harsh realities which could not be brought to fore till date".

Accusing some "power-hungry politicians, who somehow wanted to destabilise the state in particular and the country in general" of plotting against him and the the state government, he alleged they "engineered discontent" through the erstwhile Doda district and "targeted the downtrodden people of the backward district Kishtwar in particular".

"They could not bear with the age-old amity and brotherhood among the communities of Kishtwar and therefore chose to strike at its roots in the district," he said, calling it "mere coincidence" that I was in Kishtwar on Aug 9 in connection with a family bereavement and "could defuse the crisis at start of mischief by fringe elements neat the site of first occurrence of violence".

"It was but for the timely action by the government that the situation was prevented from snowballing in to 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.

"Kishtwar is small place compared to Ahmadabad, Muzaffarnagar and like areas where communal clashes resulted in hundreds of deaths and destruction but parliamentarians 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 gripped areas in other parts of country within so short time of occurrence," he alleged.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) protested the decision to re-induct Kitchloo.

Party spokesman Jitendra Singh told IANS: "It was a conspiracy of the state government."

"The moment the interim report of the (Justice (retd) R.C.) Gandhi commission was submitted to the government, the report was leaked and even cards sent out for Kitchloo's swearing in at the Raj Bhavan in Jammu Saturday," he said.

"We had expected that the Gandhi commission would end the bitterness between the two communities in Kishtwar.... It has instead increased distances between the two communities through its interim report aimed to please the Congress and the National Conference," he alleged.

The BJP spokesman said the party Saturday held protests outside Gandhi's residence in Rehari area here.

Hari Om, another senior BJP activist, said: "What was the necessity of acting in such a haste on the interim report of the commission? Why couldn't the state government wait for the final report?

The one-man judicial commission headed by Gandhi, a retired judge of the state high court, had Friday exonerated Kitchloo of any involvement in the Kishtwar communal clashes that left three people dead and over 150 shops and houses gutted in August this year.

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