JAMMU: Barely hours after he took oath as the Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister, Kavinder Gupta stoked a controversy today by terming the gruesome rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua as a "small incident" which should not get so much attention.
The remarks were promptly slammed by opposition parties following which Gupta issued a clarification.
An old RSS hand, 59-year-old Gupta, who is an MLA representing the Gandhinagar assembly seat, was asked by reporters whether the reshuffle carried out by the Mehbooba Mufti government was a result of the Kathua case in which some BJP leaders had participated last month in a rally in support of the accused.
"Kathua maamla ek chota sa maamla hai. Isko itna tool nahi dena chahiye (Kathua incident is a small incident which should not be given so much importance)," Gupta replied.
"We have to think that this should never happen again, and the child gets justice.There are many challenges like this facing the government.We should not give this incident so much importance," Gupta added.Asked about the demand for a CBI probe into the Kathua case, he said: "the matter is with the courts, let them decide for now."
Congress leader Salman Nizami had tweeted a video where the BJP leader is heard calling Kathua incident a 'minor one'.
After pro-rapist MLA was inducted in Ministry, this shameless/heartless BJP neta- Dy CM J&K Kavinder Gupta says Rape & murder of 8 year old girl in Kathua is a SMALL issue, shd not be given much hype. And his supporters Laugh.....! Shame BJP Shame. pic.twitter.com/6rkxSiBhhv— Salman Nizami (@SalmanNizami_) 30 April 2018
According to ANI, Gupta clarified that "Kathua case is subjudiced. SC will decide on the case, there is no need to poke on it."
"It is not a right thing to weigh in this case. I just said that there are enough cases like this, intentionally making an issue out of this shouldn't be done", he added.
Kathua ka maamla subjudice hai. Ab uspar SC tay karegi, baar baar us issue ko chhedna thik nahi hai. Is maamle ko tul dena acchi baat nahi hai. Maine ye kaha ki is tarah ke kaafi maamle hain, janbhooj kar isko bhadkane ki koshish nahin karni chahiye: Kavinder Gupta, J&K Dy CM pic.twitter.com/01jGWGXHmD— ANI (@ANI) 30 April 2018
National Conference's president for Jammu province and MLA Davinder Singh Rana condemned Gupta's remarks saying they showed "insensitivty to such a gory crime which is a slur on humanity and has brought shame to Jammu and Kashmir".
This is a sad reflection of the mindset of the ruling party, he added.
As his comments were slammed, Gupta issued a clarification saying that he meant that the Kathua case was sub-judice and before the Supreme Court.
"Continuously debating on the issue is not right. Giving this matter weight is not a good thing. I said that there are a lot of issues like this," he said.
An eight-year-old girl was allegedly raped and brutally killed in a village in Kathua district.
There was outrage and protests across the country over the crime.
Earlier, referring to last general elections and the state polls, Gupta said BJP had won three parliamentary seats in J&K and 25 seats in Assembly polls.
"We should do better than that", he added.
Gupta, who is a three-time Jammu mayor between 2005 and 2010, contested the Assembly polls for the first time from Gandhinagar constituency in 2014 and won.
He was appointed as Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in 2015.
As the Speaker of the J&K Assembly, Gupta courted controversy by claiming that Rohingyas who settled near the Sunjuwan Army camp were involved in the terror attack carried out in February this year.
Later, he directed that his words be expunged.
Gupta, state BJP chief Sat Pal Sharma and six others were today sworn in as ministers in the state's PDP-BJP government led by Mehbooba Mufti.
The major shake-up of the council of ministers followed BJP ministers Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga resigning from the cabinet earlier this month after they were criticised for taking part in a rally in support of those accused in the Kathua rape and murder case.
J&K cabinet reshuffle
The new BJP faces sworn in as ministers were the party's state unit chief Satpal Sharma and the MLAs from Kathua and adjoining Sambha, Rajiv Jasrotia and Devinder Kumar Manyal, respectively.
The BJP also upgraded Sunil Sharma, at present minister of state for transport, to the rank of a cabinet minister.
BJP legislator Shakti Raj took oath as a minister of state.
The PDP members included in the cabinet were Mohd Khalil Band, MLA from Pulwama, and Mohd Ashraf Mir, MLA from Sonwar.
The BJP had dropped Nirmal Singh, Health Minister Bali Bhagat and Minister of State (MoS) for Tourism Priya Sethi.