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Politics on Kishtwar Communal Violence
|by R C Ganjoo|
Unfortunately, on the day of Eid (August 9), communal violence in Kishtwar turned to a black day, engulfed almost the entire Jammu province and reminded the horrible reminiscences of 2008, when polarization reached its peak in the wake of Amarnath land row.
Kishtwar, about 300 k.m. away from Jammu given district status in 2007 and having the ratio of 55:45 Muslim and Hindu population respectively, in communal clash left Arivind Kumar, Bashir Ahmad Sheikh and Lassa Khanday dead and one dozen others injured .The dance of death and destruction started at 7.45 am. Day long arson, loot, firing and lawlessness when the anti-social and anti-national elements , who were carrying guns, petrol bottles , lathis and deadly weapons unleashed a reign of terror against minority community, according to Ranjit Singh Parihar local journalist from Kishtwar. Over 50 vehicles, petrol tankers, trucks and cars were burnt more than 150 shops and other business establishments, including several houses belonging to the minority community torched.
Surprisingly, the police and civil administration was watching the scene as mute spectator in presence of the state home minister Sajjad Kichloo (who resigned later). A group of two hundred persons raising anti-India, pro-Pak slogans and fluttering Pakistani flags and then prompting others to join them, raises a question mark on the integrity and loyalty of the state authorities.
On the top of it, police and district administration were aware of appearing of provocative posters in mosques and other localities of parliament attacker Afzal Guru, Maqbool Bhat and other militants before Eid. Why were the intelligence, security and police forces unmindful of these happenings? Why did not they take proper steps to pre-empt any mischief, questioned Sohail Kazmi, Senior Journalist from Jammu. According to him Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has always ignored the intelligence inputs from the army and the central investigation agencies as a result of that his government has to face serious problems on various occasions, he said. The central security establishment also feels that "administrative failure" on part of Jammu and Kashmir authorities in controlling the Kishtwar violence in the initial hours may have allowed the situation to go out of hand. Dr Nirmal Singh, former State Unit President of BJP said “if it was not the negligence and laxity of the government why the Minister for Home Kichloo was removed. We had already informed authorities of brewing trouble a month ago but no preventive measures were taken”.
However, situation was brought under control before nightfall after army was called in when local police and CRPF were not in position to control, praised Omar Abdullah the role of the army. Kazmi, asked where Omar Abdullah’s removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) claim stands when such situation arises in the state.
Kishtwar has been hot bed ever since the rise of militancy in the state in 1990. Armed Pakistani jihadis have made a strong build-up in this strategic region as it provides them safe haven wherefrom their smaller groups fan out to carry forward their activities of subversion in the Pir Panchal range. A strong group of jihadis has made deep inroads into the youth of local majority community, did their brain washing, sent them clandestinely to PoK terrorist training camps for training in arms and subversion and partly established secret hideouts in the deep forest recesses where the locals received training in arms. And Village Defence Committees (VDCS) were armed by the government in wake of spurt in militancy in mid 90’s which they are to be disbanded as demand raised by regional parties and separatists.
Playing with the sentiments of religion and regionalism is not a new move on the chess board of Kashmir politics. Communal violence in Kishtwar has given fodder to political parties to grind their own axe. Blame games have already started by political parties as the elections to Lok Sabha and Assembly are scheduled to be held in 2014 and in the run up to those elections BJP is also keen to consolidate its vote bank on a divisive agenda.
Being the breeding ground for rivalry between the two mainstreams political parties NC and Cong in the state, although in coalition yet on local level, their mutual rivalry in Chenab valley has not abated. The former Chief Minister of the State Gulam Nabi Azad – who hails from this area – had made Congress stronghold in Chinab valley but had to quit the office when his coalition partner Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of Mufti Mohd Sayeed pulled the rug under his feet following Amarnath land row which took a political turn. The leadership of PCC changed hands, and new combination of NC and Congress came into force. In this political mess-up situation the crude game of vote bank politics has started. M M Khajooria, former DGP,J&K state attributes the Kishtwar situation the mixture of political objective and division on communal lines. He also held responsible ISI for its pre-planned operation executed in Kishtwar. Five days before the Eid, Omar Abdullah, addressing a crowd after sectarian violence in Budgam, said “Elements behind (sectarian) tension expand their activities as soon as elections draw nearer. They want to polarise society, create conflicts between various sections, sects, faiths, regions and castes, keeping an eye on votes.”
Pertinent to mention, the seed of communal hatred and ill-will was sown in 1986 when first exodus of Kashmiri Pandits took place from the Anantnag, the home town of Mufti Mohd Sayeed. At that time Mufti Mohd Sayeed was J&K Pradesh Congress Committee Chief and was an alley of G M Shah’s party National Conference( Khalida) who was ruling the state. Mufti with connivance with dr Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference engineered communal violence aimed at replacing the then Chief Minister G M Shah. Eventually Mufti succeeded in his mission by sacrificing Kashmiri Pandit at political altar. The then AICC general Secretary KN Singh is on record holding Mufti Sayeed responsible for communal trouble in the state. It is not the end of regionalism or religion politics in the state. Jammu versus Kashmir started during Dr Farooq Abdullah’s regime in 1983 when Congress was in opposition. The Congress was labelled as Hindu party in Kashmir and Dr Farooq’s National Conference was painted as Muslim party in Jammu. This watchword kept both the region at daggers drawn till Dr Farooq joined hand with Rajiv in 1987.
J&K State has witnessed the ethnic cleansing in Kashmir valley. According to Prof. Hari Om , political commentator, Kishtwar violence was pre planned with the purpose of “Greater Kashmir” plan. How come 25,000 people all of sudden gathered there for the first time to perform prayers called from far fling areas of Kistwar, he asked. The replication of Kashmir valley in Kishtwar by anti-national and pro-Pakistan elements is a frontal blow to mainstream political parties if they do not stop blame game politics. This is true of leaders of political parties National Conference, BJP, Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, National Panthers party have already adopted a political stand and started playing politics on the blood of people of the state. The dangerous development is also being watched keenly by political observers of Cong-NC coalition partnership which failed to yield desired result. The differences between NC-Congress coalition have taken a deep roots on various issues, which are in public domain. Secondly, dissidence in Congress and disarray in National Conference has further provided ample space for separatist to extract full mileage from ambivalent political leadership in the state. They are eager to foment communal trouble because this helps them achieve their nefarious designs.
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