The Jammu Police are looking into a complaint filed a group of Gujjar farmers, comprising both Hindus and Muslims, against state Forest Minister Chaudhary Lal Singh for allegedly threatening them by referring to 947 massacre of Muslims in the region, reported The Indian Express. In May, the farmers had gone to the minister to seek reinstatement of "Naksha [map] 25", which allowed farmers to transport trees that had fallen on their land. According to the complaint, the minister, instead of listening to their argument, started abusing them and reminded them of the gruesome incident during Partition when at least 2,00,000 Muslims were killed in the region.
“The behaviour of the minister towards us was uncalled for and the remarks made by him are derogatory and have hurt the sentiments of the community. We see a sinister design to vitiate communal brotherhood and tranquillity,” the farmers said in their complaint. The police are looking for the farmers to record their statements, as they have not mentioned their addresses in the complaint.
Singh, however, denied the allegations and said he would resign if it were proven true. “They [the Gujjar delegation] had come seeking my intervention to get their truckloads of wood released from forest officials. While refusing to oblige them, what I said was that the temperature in Jammu that day was 47 degrees Celsius because of the reckless felling of green trees, and that this would not be tolerated anymore,” he told the English daily.
Controversy is not new to the minister. Singh made news when he equated Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a dog before the 2014 general elections. He was part of the Congress party then. He switched sides and joined the BJP before the state elections that year. In 2015, he also made derogatory remarks about National Conference leaders for seeking to revoke the beef ban in the state.
Party president Sat Sharma said political rivals were trying to target Singh, “who has been making all out efforts to save forests in the state”. The People's Democratic Front played it safe with the party's spokesperson saying, “We don’t know whether Singh has said it or not. He may have said it but now he is publicly saying he has not said it.” The opposition NC grabbed the opportunity to slam the PDP-BJP alliance government in the state and sought Singh' simmediate resignation for “the highly provocative, abusive, derogatory and venomous language to threaten Gujjars”.