Kishtwar violence: A planned carnage
The August 9 pre-planned and meticulously executed communal assault on the Hindus of Kishtwar and adjoining areas, which were engulfed by secessionist and communal violence in 1990, has frightened and alarmed them to the extent that they have started thinking in terms of migrating to Jammu and other safer places. The reason is that the separatist-friendly National Conference (NC)-Congress coalition Government has utterly failed to restore their confidence in the biased and vindictive administration.
Kishtwar and the adjoining areas have been under curfew ever since that ‘black day’. On August 17, the State Government did send a Group of Ministers to Kishtwar under Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand to defuse the situation and reassure the minority community that all of its demands, including adequate compensation and stringent action against the communal elements in the local civil and Police administration and the former Minister of State (MoS) Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, would be considered. The Group of Ministers met with representatives of the persecuted community for more than three hours and listened to them, but failed to restore their confidence in the administration.
The assaulted, wounded and outraged community refused to budge from their stand that all of their demands be conceded forthwith. But it was not to be. Two days later, the Omar Abdullah-led Government sent an All-party delegation to Kishtwar to break the deadlock but failed, as representatives of the ‘under-threat’ Hindu community stuck to the stand they had taken during their meeting with the Group of Ministers.
It would be appropriate to refer to here what the representatives of the minority community told the All-party delegation while narrating the woeful and heart-rending tales, highlighting the circumstances under which the Hindu community and their properties were targetted to cause exodus and the role of local Police and civil administration. Such an approach is essential to put things in perspective.
They told the delegation that what happened on August 9 was the outcome of the all-out efforts put in by anti-national and communal elements in the majority community during the past three months. “Anti-national elements had been conspiring since the past three months to vitiate the atmosphere,” they had informed the delegation. To make their point clear, they cited a number of instances, all indicating the intentions of anti-national and communal elements to not only disturb communal harmony but also to exhibit hatred and contempt for the minority community.
“They slaughtered an animal we consider holy to outrage the sensitivities of the Hindus, kidnapped a Hindu girl, conspired against members of the village defence committee (read Hindus) to tarnish their image and give a communal colour to these counter-insurgency panels (constituted in 1995 to fight cross-border terrorism and protect the minority community), attacked and disrupted the holy Kalsh yatra, called for jihad and indulged in stone-pelting on an unprecedented scale to cause fear psychosis,” they told the visiting all-party delegation.
“Former MoS Home and civil and Police administration was fully aware of all these anti-minority community activities indulged in by radical Islamists. Various intelligence agencies too had warned the administration that anti-social and pro-Pakistan elements could play a mischief and attack Hindus after Eid prayers, but the administration overlooked these inputs. On the day of Eid, they unleashed a reign of terror on the minority community as per the devised strategy. The attackers had petrol bombs, lathis and deadly arms. Some of them were holding Pakistani flags. Within 10 minutes, they wrecked havoc and caused destruction on an unprecedented scale. The Police and other law enforcing agencies watched the senseless brutalities unleashed by anti-national and communal elements and destruction of the Hindu properties as mute spectators.
They conducted their anti-minority operation for more than nine hours attacking Hindus in one locality after the other. Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Doda-Ramban range Ashkoor Wani and Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dy SP Farooq Qaiser, instead of intervening, played a dirty role). MoS Home Sajjad Ahmad Kicthloo personally instigated violence against the minority community. Anti-national elements raise anti-national and pro-Pakistan slogans and put up posters of death row terrorists Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru every Friday. If confidence of the Hindu minority in the administration is to be restored, DIG and Dy SP have to be transferred, FIR against the former MoS Home has to be lodged and stringent action against anti-national elements has to be taken,” the angry representatives of minority community told the delegation.
Gravity of the prevailing situation in Kishtwar and adjoining areas could be gauged from what some Hindu shopkeepers said on August 19 while narrating their woes. They said that it was not the first time on August 9 that their shops and other business establishments were looted, ransacked and burned by anti-national and communal elements. That day, over 100 Hindu shops and other business establishments were set on fire. This happened for the fifth time, they said. It happened in 1993, when they set on fire our 18 shops. It happened in 1998, when they burned down our 24 shops. It also happened in 2003 and 2008, when they set on fire our 50 and 60 shops and other business establishments, respectively. The victims of secessionism and terrorism revealed that some of the shops were burned three to four times and said in a state of helplessness that the August 9 communal assault has broken our back”.
“It would be better if we migrate to other places and start from a scratch there, instead of constructing our burned shops. Our migration, would save us from such onslaughts in the future. The minority community is unsafe and insecure. Had this not been the case, the anti-national elements would not have succeeded in setting on fire our shops located in front of the police station. When the anti-social elements were looting and setting on fire our shops, the policemen shut the gate of the Police station and watched the orgy of destruction as silent spectators. Ten Hindu shops were burned completely under their very nose. We have lost all hopes and, hence, it would be better to migrate and seek shelter and work elsewhere”, they said.
Indeed, the situation is horrible. It is time for the Union Government to act fast and isolate and rein in regressive elements in the administration and outside. Any failure on its part to see the writing on the wall and act would leave the minority community with no other option but to migrate. It just cannot afford to allow the extremists and other communal elements to create a Kashmir-like situation in Kishtwar and other terrorist and separatist-infested areas in Jammu province – the nation’s backbone and lifeline.