New Delhi: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti says the custodial death of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference worker Sayeed Muhammed Yousuf has "exposed the rampant corruption prevailing in the state under Chief Minister Omar Abdullah" and official inaction could be exploited by separatist groups in the Valley.
"Whenever opposition parties used to raise the issue of corruption, the chief minister used to counter-question us, asking for proof. Now, we are saying here is the proof and, that too, implicating Omar and his father (Union Minister) Farooq Abdullah," Mufti, the leader of the opposition in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, said from Srinagar.
"You all know how difficult it is for the mainstream (pro-India) parties to function in the Valley. The death of Yousuf can make things worse. Official inaction can help the campaign of others (separatists)," Mufti, 52, said.
Sayeed Muhammad Yousuf, 61, died in police custody Sep 30, a day after he was summoned to the chief minister`s residence here to answer allegations that he took bribes to arrange for political posts. The case has triggered political turbulence in the border state, with the PDP and other parties demanding the chief minister`s resignation.
Mufti said that corruption had been on the rise during the three years of Omar`s rule.
She said Omar has forfeited the "standards and stature" the chief ministers and pro-India leaders had in the Valley, which historically had a big presence of separatists.
"There might have been differences among the public over the political ideology of chief ministers. But most of them -- whether it was Sheikh Abdullah or Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq or Mufti Muhammed Sayeed -- were held in esteem. The present chief minister has forfeited that position also," she said.
The PDP leader described the judicial probe announced by Omar as an "eye-wash and impractical".
"The first pre-condition to the probe should be that Omar, who is the prime suspect, should step down.
"It has a lot of practical difficulties too, as getting a sitting judge for a probe is a prolonged process," she said.
Mufti denied Omar`s charges that the PDP was trying to influence eye-witnesses.
She said one of the eye-witnesses, National Conference worker Abdus Salam Rishi, has said that he had seen heated arguments between Omar and Yousuf at the chief minister`s chamber before Yousuf was handed over to the police.
"How can we influence the eye-witnesses? They are our rivals. But the centre should take steps to protect the eye-witnesses," she said.
She added that the senior Abdullah was making "absurd and shocking statements". Farooq Abdullah had wondered why the PDP was bothered about the incident as the victim belonged to the ruling party.
"It is shocking that eye-witnesses are saying that the bribes were being collected for Farooq Abdullah in return for legislative posts and ministerial berths," she said.
Mufti alleged that Indian leaders, civil society leaders and even the media was looking at "Yousuf`s death through the prism of so-called national interest".
Branding the inaction as "pseudo-nationalism at its worst", Mufti said: "The same Indian leaders and media which called for the resignation of (then Maharashtra chief minister) Ashok Chavan and (then union minister) Shashi Tharoor for much lesser faults are remaining silent on the corruption and crimes under Omar. This can help others (separatists)."
Asked about the role of the Congress party, Mufti said: "Being the alliance partner (of the National Conference), they appear to prefer silence."