The National Conference (NC) MLA from Kishtwar, Sajjad Kichloo, who resigned as Minister of State for Home in Omar Abdullah’s government on Monday, said that he had a providential escape in the communal collision in his hometown on August 9 as “thousands of rioters” attempted to burn him alive.
“As soon as the Id-ul-Fitr congregational prayers concluded at Chowgan Grounds, we learned about a minor clash between the men of the two communities at Kaleed Chowk. Soon we noticed multitudes of the 25,000-strong gathering running in different directions. We observed that an unruly crowd of over 15,000 men was vandalising properties and setting on fire shops and vehicles”, Mr. Kichloo told The Hindu on Tuesday. “Within minutes, the town turned into a battlefield”.
“My PSOs escorted me to the nearby Dak Bungalow. Even as we took shelter inside and began making frantic calls to senior Army and police officials, the violent crowds led by some local BJP leaders made sustained efforts to capture me and burn me alive. They scaled the boundary walls and jumped in. They smashed the glazed windows of the Dak bungalow and set on fire the bulletproof police bunker. I asked the police to scare away the mobs with baton charge and tear gas. I asked them to ensure that nobody died in the police firing. I am sad that two people died in the mayhem. But, I am relieved that 200 were saved because of our presence at the spot.” At one point of time, Mr. Kichloo said, he and his PSOs vacated the main bungalow and took shelter in a backyard house on the Deputy Commissioner’s insistence. “But we returned quickly and continued our efforts to call out the Army. DC’s first call went to Sector Commander of Rashtriya Rifles at 10.40 a.m. in my presence. Brigadier and other commanders were very much cooperative but they called for a written requisition. It went to them by fax at 11-45 a.m. They called back and asked for some corrections. The final draft was faxed at 12.12 p.m”, Mr. Kichloo claimed.
Officials privy to the communications claimed that Mr. Kichloo’s first telephonic call to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah matured at 11.45 a.m. “CM sahab assured them every help but asked to ensure that nobody died in the Police or forces’ action,” said an official. He claimed that the junior Home Minister and the DC spoke to almost all senior civil and police officials, including Chief Secretary Iqbal Khanday and Director-General of Police Ashok Prasad.