Kashmir leader quits over sex scandal claims

Omar Abdullah denies any link to a prostitution ring, saying he has stepped down to clear his name.
The chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir tendered his resignation Tuesday after he was accused of being involved in a 2006 sex scandal, his adviser said.

Omar Abdullah, 38, delivered his resignation to the state governor after opposition member Muzaffar Hussain Beigh accused Omar of a connection to the prostitution scandal during a session of the state legislative assembly. Muzaffar served as the deputy chief minister in the previous government, when several top pro-India officials were arrested on charges they misused their authority to force girls and women into a prostitution ring in Kashmir. Omar denied being involved in the scandal, but said he could not “continue in the office following the allegation” and would not serve again until he is cleared of the charges. “This is not an ordinary allegation, but a highly serious one. I cannot continue in office until I am cleared,” Omar said in the state assembly. He then drove to Rajbhavan, the official residence of New Delhi-appointed governor N.N. Vohra, to deliver his resignation, according to Devender Rana, Omar’s political adviser. The governor is consulting constitutional and legal experts before deciding on the resignation. The chief minister refused to talk to journalists outside the governor’s residence. The Times of India newspaper Tuesday quoted highly placed sources in India’s Central Bureau of Investigation as saying that Omar’s name never came up in the prostitution probe. Omar came into office in January following elections in late 2008 that saw the highest voter turnout in the region in nearly 20 years, since the eruption of a secessionist insurgency. Voters went to the polls in large numbers, despite a separatist call for a boycott of the voting. Most recently, the chief minister has been working to defuse tensions that are still running high following the arrest of four police officers in the probe of the alleged rape and murder of two young Muslim women in May. Two people have died and many have been injured in more than 300 violent clashes between Muslim protesters and Indian security forces stemming from the case. The arrests included the former police chief of south Kashmir’s Shopian district and three of his subordinates, who are accused of “destruction of evidence” and “dereliction of duty” in connection with the deaths, which occurred in the town of Shopian. Kashmir has been in the throes of a bloody secessionist campaign for nearly two decades in which, according to official figures, 43,000 people have been killed. Various rights groups and non-governmental organizations here, however, dispute the official statistics — claiming that the number killed during the last two decades is twice the official figure.