Union minister Farooq Abdullah denied describing the people of his Jammu and Kashmir state as “mahachors (biggest thieves)” of electricity. A newspaper report on the alleged comment has angered political parties in the state but the minister claims he was misquoted.
“I had never said that Kashmiris are mahachors,” Mr. Abdullah said. “There is a lot of pilferage of power. Many of our people are stealing electricity. But I never said anything about Kashmiris being thieves.”
The opposition shouted slogans in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly and demanded an apology from Mr. Abdullah, leader of the ruling National Conference and father of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
The protesting lawmakers waved copies of a newspaper report that had quoted the senior Mr. Abdullah as saying, “Kashmiri chor nahi, mahachor hai” (Kashmiris are not just thieves but the biggest thieves). He reportedly said this while releasing a report related to his New and Renewable Energy department that described Jammu and Kashmir as a “non-performer”.
Accusing the newspaper of trying to plant confusion in the minds of people, Mr. Abdullah said, “I had said that it is unfortunate that we buy power for nearly 2-3 thousand crores, but we are not able to get that money back because there is a lot of pilferage of power. Many of our people are stealing power.”
In the assembly, Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar defended Mr. Abdullah saying he never meant to deride all Kashmiris. “He only meant the junior staff is instrumental in power theft,” Mr. Sagar said, but failed to silence the PDP-led opposition.
“He has insulted all the people of Kashmir. He must apologise,” said PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti.