Visibly angry and upset over different mainstream political parties “hyping up” the communal clashes in Kishtwar, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on Thursday that Kashmiris were being forced to feel “different and isolated” from the Indian national mainstream.

In an unusually harsh Independence Day ceremonial address at the Bakhshi Stadium, Mr. Abdullah expressed his dismay over the “treatment meted out to the State” by the mainstream political parties. While the BJP is spearheading an agitation, the Bahujan Samaj Party has demanded an outright dismissal of the State government.

“I was often being asked why the Kashmiris were treating themselves separate from the Indian national mainstream. At many times, I asked myself but didn’t get an answer. After [the riots in] Kishtwar, I have now got an answer. We are not separate and different, but unfortunately we are being treated differently,” Mr. Abdullah said after hoisting the national flag and taking the salute at a colourful parade.

“It’s a fact that one-odd communal incident has occurred during my regime in the last over four years. It shouldn’t have happened. I have severely condemned it and set up a judicial commission to bring out the truth. But, let it be clear that this is not the first such incident in this country,” he said.

Mr. Abdullah pointed out that scores of deaths had occurred in similar riots in different States — in 2012 alone, 34 deaths in U.P; (and in 2013) 13 in Maharashtra, 15 in Madhya Pradesh, 3 in Karnataka, 6 in Rajasthan and 5 in Gujarat. “Which of these riots was debated in Parliament? Which of these clashes forced national level leaders of the political parties rush to a State,” the Chief Minister asked. You are [actually] denying us [special status] under Article 370 … the fact is that you are treating us differently and forcing us to feel separate from you”.

I-Day ceremonial parades progressed smoothly amid tight security in all the 20 districts. The curfew, which was imposed in Kishtwar and many areas of the Jammu division in apprehension of spillover of trouble after the violent riots of August 9, was lifted overnight from all the district headquarters and major towns in Jammu, except Kishtwar.

Minister of Law Mir Saifullah unfurled the tricolour and took the salute at an official function in Kishtwar.

Shutdown in Valley

Like every year since 1990, the Kashmir Valley remained shutdown over calls from separatist and militant outfits.

Senior Hurriyat leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, besides Yasin Malik of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Shabir Shah of the Democratic Freedom Party had called upon the Kashmiris to observe “Black Day” to register what they called Kashmiris’ protest against “military occupation” by India.