A ruckus over the release from prison of Masarat Alam Bhat, who led one of the biggest protests in Kashmir, is adding to mounting problems for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he tries to push economic reform through Parliament.
The lower house of Parliament was temporarily adjourned on Monday after opposition parties demanded to know why separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat was released at the weekend by Kashmir’s state government, which Modi’s nationalist party supports.
“I am angered and condemn the release, just like other lawmakers,” Modi said in Parliament.
Modi swept to office ten months ago promising rapid economic transformation but disparate opposition parties have united to block his agenda, forcing the government to rely on executive orders called ordinances to pass unpopular policies.
With two weeks remaining of the current session of Parliament before a recess, the government needs to win support for ordinances, including those raising the foreign direct investment limit in the insurance sector, or they will expire.
Under pressure from investors and voters to perform, the government is considering calling a rare joint session of Parliament to push through market-friendly laws.
Modi has a majority in the lower house of Parliament but needs cross party support in the upper house.
The opposition stalled proceedings in both houses to protest the release of Bhat, accused of orchestrating 2010 protests that led to months of clashes. More than 100 people were shot.
Bhat’s release is an embarrassment for Modi’s Bharaitya Janata Party (BJP), which for the first time has a role in ruling the Muslim majority state after forming an unlikely coalition.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament he has asked for a fresh report from the state government on why it released Bhat, who has 27 criminal cases registered against him.
Bhat said in an interview on Sunday that even though he had been released from jail, his life was not much better because Kashmir resembled a prison because of the heavy military presence.