The Hindus of the Jammu province, who constitute over 70 per cent of the region’s population and 40 per cent of the State’s total population are seething with anger. On December 21, they held massive demonstrations at 18 places across Jammu. People protested against Justice RC Gandhi (Retd) and burnt his effigy and even organised a massive dharna in front of the Raj Bhawan. Many places witnessed clashes between the police and protesters leaving some of them with grievous injuries, as protestors broke barricades to enter the Raj Bhawan.
All these demonstrations were organised by the State unit of the BJP. Almost all the senior leaders of the BJP, including the State president Jugal Kishore Sharma, Leader of the BJP in the Legislature Ashok Khajuria and members of the BJP national executive committee sat on dharna for hours. In fact, the BJP State president led a procession from the party headquarters to Raj Bhawan raising slogans like “down with National Conference-Congress coalition Government, down with Sonia Gandhi, down with Geelani Government and down with Mirwaiz Government”. Not just this, the State BJP president called for 48-hour bandh and chakka jaam throughout Jammu shouting slogans “Terrorists ki sarkar nahi chalegi, nahin chalegi” and “Omar Abdullah, Sonia Gandhi hai hai”. To be more precise, they termed the J&K Government as the Government of terrorists, by terrorists and for the terrorists. They also warned the Government to behave itself otherwise they will face consequences. The people of Jammu will observebandh on December 22 and December 23 respectively and during these two days, the BJP and other nationalist organisations will initiate protests across the province and hold demonstrations in front of the houses of the Congress Ministers and senior leaders.
What provoked political explosions in the Jammu province? Why did the BJP cadre burned the effigy of retired Justice RC Gandhi and held demonstrations and organised sit-ins in front of Gandhi’s resident and Raj Bhawan? Why did the BJP call for a 48-hour bandh and chakka jam? Well, there were three reasons for this. One, Justice Gandhi’s interim report on August 9 Kishtwar violence gave a clean chit to the former Home Minister of State Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo and described him as a ‘victim’. The BJP leadership said that Justice Gandhi signed the report on dotted lines. Kitchloo was in Kishtwar when a few heavily armed fanatics and terrorists attacked the Hindus and burned their moveable and immovable properties after offering Eid prayers in the local mosque. They conducted the anti-Hindu operation for more than 10 hours and the local, civil and police administration instead of protecting the innocent and unarmed Hindus, became the partner in crime. A fact candidly acknowledged by the otherwise roundly condemned interim report. (All District Magistrates, Deputy Commissioner, Kishtwar, Mohammad Salem and then SSP Sunil Gupta, apart from their subordinates on duty on August 9 were not present on the site, the report said.
The victims of terrorists and fanaticism had charged Kitchloo with ‘masterminding’ the operation demanding his dismissal from the Ministry. National Conference leader Kitchloo resigned on August 12, when Parliament discussed the Kishtwar tragedy. Omar Abdullah appointed the one-man Commission of Inquiry on August 24 to look into the circumstances leading to the violent attacks on the Hindus. Two, the decision of Jammu &Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to re-induct Kitchloo into his Council of Ministers within 24 hours after the submission of what the people contemptuously term as “communally-motivated report prepared by the bribed chairman of the inquiry commission”. The BJP described the re-induction of Kitchloo in the Council of Ministers and in the Home Ministry on December 21 as a “meticulously devised strategy to embolden the anti-Hindu forces in the terrorist-infested Kishtwar district by creating enviable environment forcing Hindus to migrate from Jammu so that the anti-national forces could play their nefarious games with utmost ease and extend their area of influence and activities beyond this district in the course of time”. Not one, but all those who addressed the protesters in front of the Raj Bhawan spoke in one voice against the State Government and the UPA Government.
Some of them even said, “Omar Abdullah is more dangerous than Jinnah” and accused Sonia Gandhi and the UPA Government of extending unqualified support to him and his anti-minority policies”. The upshot of their speeches was that what Justice Gandhi is known for his ‘dishonest’ conduct and the manner in which Omar Abdullah rehabilitated ‘accused’ Kitchloo constituted a loud message for the minority community that “if it is to survive, it has no other option but to launch a relentless struggle and remain extra vigilant round-the-clock to defeat the sinister game-plan of the Jammu & Kashmir Government and the protagonists of the State’s separation from India”.
Three, the uncalled for recommendations that the existing Village Defence Committees (VDCs) should be reconstituted by inducting them as the members of the majority community or Muslim VDCs be set up. “Members from the majority community should also be inducted into the VDCs to strike a balance so that the vested interests are not able to give them communal colour at the time of agitation”, the interim report has recommended. The BJP described this recommendation as highly dangerous and said that Justice Gandhi did not have the mandate to make such a recommendation, as it did not form part of his terms of reference. Indeed, the recommendation is ill-designed and ill-motivated. It has the potential of rendering the VDCs, which have been playing very important role in anti-terrorist operations, irrelevant for all practical purposes. The induction of members of the majority community into the VDCs, would negate the purpose for which they were created. The BJP appears right when viewed in the context of the Kashmiri separatists’ demand that the “VDCs must be disbanded, as they are harassing the majority community”.
It bears recalling that it was in 1994, when the terrorism was at its peak and the minority community in the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu province were under threat. The then Governor of J&K Lt Gen KV Krishna Rao and Union Home Minister SB Chavan set up the VDCs in the terrorist-prone areas of the Jammu to create a sense of security among the minority communities. The Union Government took the decision after the BJP organised a two-week-long Doda Bachao Andolan with BJP’s national president Murali Manohar Joshi leading the movement from the front. Jammu city was the centre of the Doda Bachao Andolan, when the State was under the President’s Rule. The State remained under Governor/President rule from January 19, 1990 to October 9, 1996.
The BJP not only got outraged by these three highly provocative acts committed by Justice Gandhi and National Conference-Congress coalition Government, but it also questioned the basis on which Justice Gandhi gave a clean chit. It posed two specific questions to Justice Gandhi, i.e., 1. How could he give his report when he had not heard any response to the questionnaire submitted by him to the Director General of Police Ashok Prasad, CID Headquarters and other senior officers pertaining to the functioning of police, intelligence network and civil administration, which had completely collapsed on the day of Eid violence? 2. On the basis of which 300 affidavits, he gave a clean chit to Kitchloo, who had submitted these affidavits, who were those 50 to 60 witnesses whom he examined and what was the other evidence that he collected and made him conclude that Kitchloo is a victim and not an accused?
It needs to be underlined that Justice Gandhi will give his final report after getting response by the Director General of Police, Ashok Prasad, CID Headquarters and other senior officers pertaining to the functioning of police, intelligence network and civil administration. But more than that, his interim report has reportedly said that Justice Gandhi “has received about 300 affidavits and examined 50 to 60 witnesses and on their basis as well as on the basis of other evidences Kitchloo had no involvement in the incidents, thus giving him a clean chit”.
In sum, it can be said that the provocation is grave and what the BJP did on December 21 and what it will do during the next two days needs to be viewed in this context. Indeed, Justice Gandhi and the State Government have outraged the sensitivities of the minority community. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the BJP had identified itself with the outraged community and resolved to expose the communal coalition and Justice Gandhi.