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Updated: August 13, 2013 08:32 IST

Sectarian politics fuelled Kishtwar riot

Chander Suta Dogra
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The Jammu-Kishtwar Highway, near Udhampur, is a vast stretch of emptiness on Monday. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar
The Hindu
The Jammu-Kishtwar Highway, near Udhampur, is a vast stretch of emptiness on Monday. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar

As a dazed population struggles to comprehend just what hit them, there is unanimity across the religious divide that sectarian election politics is the culprit

All it took was two motorcyclists swerving too close to a procession heading for Id prayers to set off a communal conflagration that has claimed four lives, left scores of shops and houses burnt, and a fragile Hindu-Muslim amity on the edge in Kishtwar town of Jammu and Kashmir.

As a dazed population struggles to comprehend just what hit them, there is unanimity across the religious divide that sectarian election politics is the culprit. Just who did the mischief is a minor detail.

On Monday, as the State government kept up its firm blackout on all news emanating from Kishtwar town, keeping it out of bounds for journalists and blocking internet services, some news did filter out. Despite the resignation of Home Minister Sajjad Kitchloo — legislator from Kishtwar and who was present in the town as it burned — people continued to defy the curfew and a violent clash took place between protesters and the police in which one officer and several others were injured.

There is anger on both sides. The Muslims are angry because their Id prayers and procession were allegedly disrupted by a couple of Hindu youth, and the Hindus are enraged that most of the shops burnt are theirs. The annual Machail Yatra to an ancient Hindu pilgrimage in Kishtwar has also come to a standstill after some vehicles of yatris were damaged. According to the police, 48 shops were burnt, three of which belong to Muslims.

Kishtwar residents, however, say that more than a hundred shops, two hotels and six houses have been burnt. One of them is Haji Faheem who saw his plywood shop on Hidyal chowk being burnt before his eyes. “A dozen or so police officials including one officer watched, even as I begged them to do something to stop the mob. Even if they were a few in number they could have fired in the air,” he told The Hindu.

Pritam Gupta’s shoe shop near the Dak Bungalow met a similar fate at the hand of a Muslim mob. He rushed into the Dak Bungalow that was a refuge for Mr. Kitchloo as well as the deputy commissioner Mohammed Saleem (now removed) and some 200 odd security men. Says he: “I pleaded with the DC to do something. He told me to sit on a sofa near him. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., as the town burnt, these officials sat and watched. Some order was restored only when the army columns entered the town.”

Kishtwar has a Muslim-Hindu population ratio of 60:40. Two decades of militancy has led to some suspicion here. Mr. Kitchloo of the National Conference defeated Sunil Sharma of the BJP by approximately 2000 votes. It is common knowledge in the district that tension had been building up between the two communities in the days before Id.

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" Majhab nahi sikhata aapas mein Bair rakhna". I am not sure when will we learn this. A country where 2.1 million childrens die every year because of malnutrition. A country which tops the chart in corruption. Do you really think that we should fight for religion. Following any religion is purely individuals choice and one should not be discriminated based on religion he follows. Jago mere Desh Nashiyon

from:  Afsar Zaman
Posted on: Aug 15, 2013 at 15:07 IST

Compliments to the reporter. While the media want to show a one sided
pic, the author here has tried to strike a balance by bringing some of
the facts to fore. Besides 3 lives and property worth crores, the
biggest victim of the incident is truth and communal brotherhood. Hope
peace prevails

from:  kisthwari
Posted on: Aug 14, 2013 at 23:13 IST

Their is actually a need of hardliners who can tackle the situation in a robust manner. Its really dissapointing to find that even the Police is not ready to help the victims who are nowhere involved in the riots. Its high time. Police is not doing what it is supposed to do. Authorities are continuously neglecting the seriousness of the matter. Gone are the days to wait for something to happen. We are the ones who need to jump into the feilds ourselves now in sake of integrity of the nation.

from:  Aditi Mishra
Posted on: Aug 14, 2013 at 16:30 IST

We are going to celebrate our 67th independence day within a couple of days and communal violence which engulfed several lives in 1947 is now in display again. Local administration should have shown its pro-activeness by calling in the army as early as it could. The fate of kashmir seems to be in the hands of lord, sectarianism is eating away this state for so many decades.

from:  Gaurav Pruthi
Posted on: Aug 13, 2013 at 09:31 IST

The Majority population in Kishtwar has a responsibility to bring hope
back into the minorities that they have every right to share the land
and resources. After the previous ethnic cleansing of Pandits from the
Valley this could have stood as a good lesson in amity, but burning of
shops has reinforced that old enemeties die hard.

from:  Aditya
Posted on: Aug 13, 2013 at 04:47 IST
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