Jammu, Apr 30 (PTI) Barely hours after he took oath as the Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister, Kavinder Gupta stoked a controversy today by terming the gruesome rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua as a “small incident” which should not get so much attention.Also Read - Bank Holiday Alert: Banks To Remain Shut For 6 Days From Today | Complete List Here

The remarks were promptly slammed by opposition parties following which Gupta issued a clarification. An old RSS hand, 59-year-old Gupta, who is an MLA representing the Gandhinagar assembly seat, was asked by reporters whether the reshuffle carried out by the Mehbooba Mufti government was a result of the Kathua case in which some BJP leaders had participated last month in a rally in support of the accused. Also Read - Mehbooba Mufti Not Under House Arrest: Jammu And Kashmir Police Issues Clarification

“Kathua maamla ek chota sa maamla hai. Isko itna tool nahi dena chahiye (Kathua incident is a small incident which should not be given so much importance),” Gupta replied. Also Read - Jammu Imposes Night Curfew Amid Surge In Covid Cases, People Asked To Follow Guidelines

Known for having made controversial remarks during his stint as Speaker of the state Assembly, Gupta said the Kathua incident was “minor issue (chhoti si baat)”.

“We have to think that this should never happen again, and the child gets justice. There are many challenges like this facing the government. We should not give this incident so much importance,” Gupta added.

Asked about the demand for a CBI probe into the Kathua case, he said “the matter is with the courts, let them decide for now.” National Conference’s president for Jammu province and MLA Davinder Singh Rana condemned Gupta’s remarks saying they showed “insensitivty to such a gory crime which is a slur on humanity and has brought shame to Jammu and Kashmir”.

This is a sad refelection of the mindset of the ruling party, he added.

Congress leader Salman Nizami tweeted “After pro-rapist MLA was inducted in Ministry, this shameless/heartless BJP neta- Dy CM JK Kavinder Gupta says Rape and murder of 8 year old girl in Kathua is a SMALL issue, should not be given much hype. And his supporters Laugh…..! Shame BJP Shame (sic).” As his comments were slammed, Gupta issued a clarification saying that he meant that the Kathua case was sub-judice and before the Supreme Court.

“Continuously debating on the issue is not right. Giving this matter weight is not a good thing. I said that there are a lot of issues like this,” he said.

An eight-year-old girl was alleged raped and brutally killed in a village in Kathua district. There was outrage and protests across the country over the crime. Earlier, referring to last general elections and the state polls, Gupta said BJP had won three parliamentary seats in J&K and 25 seats in Assembly polls. We should do better than that, he added.

Gupta, who is a three-time Jammu mayor between 2005 and 2010, contested the Assembly polls for the first time from Gandhinagar constituency in 2014 and won. He was appointed as Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in 2015.

As the Speaker of the J&K Assembly, Gupta courted controversy by claiming that Rohingyas who settled near the Sunjuwan Army camp were involved in the terror attack carried out in February this year. Later, he directed that his words be expunged.

Gupta, state BJP chief Sat Pal Sharma and six others were today sworn in as ministers in the state’s PDP-BJP government led by Mehbooba Mufti.

The major shake-up of the council of ministers followed BJP ministers Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga resigning from the cabinet earlier this month after they were criticised for taking part in a rally in support of those accused in the Kathua rape and murder case.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.