Kashmir chief resigns over sex scandal

Indian Kashmir’s chief minister Omar Abdullah resigned on Tuesday over what he described as “baseless” allegations that he was involved in a sex scandal.

Authorities uncovered a prostitution racket in 2006 involving 40 women and underage girls whose clients allegedly included politicians, bureaucrats, security officials and businessmen in the conservative Muslim-majority state.

The case is being investigated by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, which has charged several former state ministers and top security officials over the scandal.

During a state assembly session on Tuesday, opposition lawmakers and former finance minister Muzaffer Beigh said Abdullah was one of the accused.

“After hearing this I will not be able to function as the chief minister, so I have decided to resign,” a visibly upset Abdullah said.

“It is a baseless allegation but I won’t be at peace with myself until I am proven innocent,” he added, as colleagues in the ruling National Conference party begged him to reverse his decision.

Davinder Rana, Abdullah’s top aide, said Abdullah had handed his resignation letter to the state governor and had asked for an inquiry into the allegations.

The governor later issued a statement asking Abdullah to stay in his post until details of the allegations against him were made clear.

India’s state-owned television station Doordarshan said Abdullah had never figured in the CBI’s investigations.

Hundreds of his supporters took to the streets of Kashmir’s summer capital, Srinagar, chanting “Long live Omar Abdullah” and burning effigies of Beigh—one of his accusers.

Abdullah (39) came to power in state elections last year following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

His administration has been faced with daily protests over the rape and murder of two young Muslim women since their bodies were recovered in late May.

Their families have blamed the security forces for the crime.

Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan, is in the grip of an insurgency that has killed more than 47 000 people over the past two decades, according to official figures.—AFP

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