Jammu and Kashmir Assembly today witnessed a heated exchange between Education Minister Naeem Akhtar and NC MLA Mubarak Gul who felt “insulted” when the former said he should have read the written reply in Urdu instead of English.
During the Question Hour, Gul asked a question on behalf of his party colleague Devender Rana, alleging that the government had brought a new advertisement policy for newspapers with an aim to “curbing” the freedom of press.
“The advertisement policy is being used to muzzle the press. It has been issued without consulting the stakeholders. The government should review the policy,” Gul, a former J-K Assembly Speaker, said.
Akhtar responded by saying, “I should have read it (written reply) in Urdu, instead of English.”
Irked by the Education Minister’s remarks, Gul said Akhtar was not the only one who understood and spoke English.
“I am a member of this House since 1983 and he is yet to be a member of this House. It is an insult,” Gul said.
The five-time National Conference MLA continued to target Akhtar but was not audible in the din as many NC and Congress MLAs rose to question the government’s advertisement policy.
The Education Minister hit back at Gul, saying he was challenging the Constitution of the state by questioning his membership of the Legislative Council.
“He (Gul) is saying so many things about me as if the Legislative Council is not a constitutional body. He is insulting the Constitution of the state,” Akhtar said.
Nawang Rigzin Jora (Cong) said the government should roll back the advertisement policy if it threatens the fourth estate.
“Media is the Fourth Estate and a vibrant media is necessary for vibrant and strong democratic institutions. You should look into the possibility of roll back or remove the clauses which are objectionable to the media,” he said.
In an apparent reference to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s outburst on reports about Sainik colonies earlier this week, Jora asked the government not to threaten the media.
BJP leader Sat Paul Sharma also asked the government to review the policy and take the issue very seriously.
Akhtar responded, saying, “We have received representations on the advertisement policy and they are under consideration.”