Jammu and Kashmir Forest Minister Choudhary Lal Singh has offered a tentative apology and a strange explanation for what he claimed was a misunderstanding between him and a delegation of Gujjars -- both Hindus and Muslims -- who had lodged a police complaint against him for allegedly using a communal slur.
“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,” Singh told The Indian Express.
However, the farmers, in their complaint, alleged that Singh asked them if they've forgotten about 1947, referring to the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in Jammu region in riots during Partition.
"If I have inadvertently hurt anyone's sentiments or feelings, I am sorry for the same. My effort has always been to serve all the communities of the state," Singh said in a statement yesterday. He said he always entertained people, who called on him, irrespective of their caste, creed or religious affiliation and added his comments were misinterpreted.
(A member of the Kashmir Gujjar community looks out from the window of a mosque in Baba Nagri, east of Srinagar, June 8, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Ismail)
"I was speaking to my Gujjar brothers in Dogri about the increasing temperature in Jammu. I had said that mercury would reach 47 degrees Celsius in Jammu. This was misunderstood by some people who linked it to 1947 when the country got freedom. 47 degrees should not be confused with the tragedies of 1947," PTI quoted him as saying.
The Indian Express also reported that the farmers accused him of using abusive language in the complaint. The National Conference has asked for Singh's resignation.