Ministers fumble over charges

The Centre is already facing the Opposition’s ire on the comments of senior journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, chief interlocutor on Kashmir, that Kashmir was “disputed” and Pakistan should be involved to find a permanent solution to the problem. On Roy’s and Geelani’s case, it preferred to wait and watch rather than rush to react to the BJP’s demand for the arrest of the writer or the separatist leader.

Treading cautiously, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily said on Tuesday that he was yet to get any communication from the Union Home Ministry on the issue. The Delhi police had sent to the Home Ministry its assessment of Roy’s and Geelani’s speech at the seminar. The file has been subsequently passed on to the Union Law Ministry for its opinion. “Yes, there is freedom of speech...it can’t violate the patriotic sentiments of the people,”  Moily said at a seminar here, while terming Roy’s and Geelani’s remarks as “most unfortunate”.
On the BJP’s allegations that the Centre remained silent on the developments, he said, “Politics cannot be mixed with statements that border on sedition.”

Earlier this week, Union Home Minster P Chidambaram had said the Centre was seized of the issue and would take action if “law is violated”. Union Minister Farooq Abdullah also criticised Roy’s speech.

On Tuesday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah met Chidambaram for 30 minutes to deliberate upon the visit of the interlocutors to Kashmir and to brief him about the meeting of unified command at Srinagar on Monday night. Padgaonkar, meanwhile, received support from BJP RS Member Ram Jethmalani, who went against the party line and defended the former’s comment on Kashmir.

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