Kishtwar violence: Hindus living in shadow of fear

The frightening memories of the atrocities committed by radical Islamists on the minority Hindu community on August 9 (Eid Day) in the sensitive Muslim-majority Kishtwar district of Jammu province are too fresh too be forgotten. The indifferent attitude of the Jammu & Kashmir Government and barbarities perpetrated by the protagonists of Kashmir’s separation from India and ardent believers in two-nation concept still lingers in the mind of several unprotected Hindus. The ‘communal assault’ on the Hindu minority community had resulted in three deaths and destruction of the Hindus’ properties on an unprecedented scale, besides causing migration of a few Hindu families to safer places.

The nature of the attitude of the law and order authorities to the victims of fanaticism could be gauged from the fact that the district hospital authorities reportedly refused to admit even seriously injured members of the Hindus. It was because of the timely intervention of the Army that their lives could be saved. The Army had airlifted the fatally wounded Hindus to the Jammu Medical College Hospital for treatment. A few elements in the civil and police administration were hand-in-glove with the extremists could also be seen from the fact that they did not enforce curfew for hours despite instructions. All this happened when Minister of State Home Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, who belongs to Kishtwar, was present in the town when the radical Islamists targetted the Hindu community and set on fire their shops, houses and vehicles. The whole objective of the radical Islamists was to create a Kashmir-like situation in Kishtwar so that the Hindus migrate and they could establish their control over the district to launch similar operations in other adjoining areas of Jammu and achieve their age-old objective of creating Greater Kashmir comprising almost 100 per cent Muslim Kashmir and the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu. Even a Cabinet Minister in the Omar Abdullah-led coalition Government Taj Mohi-ud-Din had publicly said that what happened on August 9 was the brainchild of the votaries of Greater Kashmir and asserted no power on earth can de-link Kishtwar from Jammu and merge it with Kashmir.

The gory Kishtwar episode had caused a furore across the nation. The Parliament discussed the atrocities committed on the minority Hindus and their fall-out for two full days on August 12, 2013 and August 13, 2013 respectively. Under pressure, the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had to appoint a probe committee under a retired High Court Judge RC Gandhi to look into the matter under which the radical Islamists unleashed a reign of senseless brutalities on the unprotected and helpless Hindus and Sajjad Kitchloo had to tender his resignation. According to reports, the committee has completed its work and is likely to submit its report in the next few days. Significantly, the bulk of the Hindu community has no faith in committee for reasons best known to them. In any case, everything would be in public domain sooner or later and the proper time to comment on the findings of the probe committee would be when it is out for public scrutiny.

It was hoped that the authorities in the State would take all precautionary measures to ensure that August 9 was not replicated in the sensitive Kishtwar district where the proportion of Muslims and Hindus is approximately 60:40. But what happened on December 17 at around 7 pm in the remote Chanjer village in Marwah tehsil of Kishtwar district establishes beyond any doubt that the pro-autonomy NC-led coalition Government has failed to discharge its duty and left the Hindu minority community to the care of God, anarchy and radical Islamists. According to the local residents, “On December 17, 2013, a group of dozen radical Islamists desecrated the ancient Shiv temple, tore into pieces the holy Bhagwat Gita and the Ramayan, stole one idol installed in the temple and decamped with cash and other things kept inside the temple. They say that that mischievous elements would have burned down this place of worship but it was the alertness of the temple pujari that they failed to accomplish their evil game plan. Members of the Hindu minority community came out of their houses after the temple priest raised alarm.

The outraged Hindu minority community would observe bandh in Kishtwar district on December 19. The call for a complete shutdown was given by Sanatan Dharam Sabha, Kishtwar to register a strong protest against the failure of the authorities to provide a foolproof security cover to the minority community. What happened at Chanjer was outrageous and despicable. It constituted, according to members of the Hindu minority community, a concerted attempt on the part of the radical Islamists to frighten the miniscule minority community and cause migration. Chanjer houses over 13,000 Muslims and only 42 Hindu families. The number of Hindus, including men, women and children, is only about 200. Terrorists had bloodied and convulsed Chanjer and the adjoining areas a number of times after 1990, when secessionist and communal violence gripped Kashmir Valley and terrorists tried to extend their tentacles beyond it to cleanse the areas of non-believers. They had liquidated a number of Hindus, including village chowkidar Raghu Ram, and set on fire the temple on November 18, 1988 to cause terror among members of the minority community. Another chowkidar Radha Krishan had a narrow escape.

As a result, some of the Hindu families had migrated to Kishtwar town, Udhampur and Jammu to escape the wrath of the extremists. Some of the migrated families returned to their homes and hearths after sometime and some of them continue to remain in self-imposed exile. These and similar other terror-related incidents and the public pressure had compelled the authorities to set up a police post at Chanjer in the early 1990s to protect the temple and the minority community, but was removed in 2011, thus leaving it at the mercy of rogue elements in the Muslim community. Credit goes to those who stayed put in the militancy-prone areas braving all odds and overlooking a threat to their lives. But things have changed to the extent that the Hindu minority community is thinking in terms of migrating on a permanent basis. This was the fundamental upshot of their whole representation that they submitted to the Inspector General of Police, Rajesh Kumar on December 18 at Jammu. The deputation of minority community narrated their woeful tales to the IGP in the presence of Jammu & Kashmir State BJP president Jugal Kishore Sharma and Leader of BJP Legislature Party Ashok Khajuria who accompanied the aggrieved and highly frightened community representatives.

The deputation put forth four specific demands – permanent police post with at least 30 policemen belonging to both the communities, round-the-clock telephone service, identification of those who attempted to create communal tension by targeting the temple and tearing into pieces the holy books and registration of FIR and stringent action against the culprits and foolproof security cover to the minority community. The delegation comprising Shanti Savroop Koul, Murti Manohar, Trilik Nath, Vinod Kumar, Roshan Lal, Vivek Kumar, Ranjeet Kumar, Sunny Kumar and Umesh Kumar told the IGP that the minority community would be left with no other option but to migrate if its demands are not considered forthwith. This writer was present in the office chamber of the IGP Rajesh Kumar when the members of the delegation narrated the whole story.

It is a matter of great satisfaction that IGP Rajesh Kumar promised a thorough probe and action against those causing a sense of insecurity among members of the Hindu minority community. One can only hope and pray that good sense will prevail and the authorities will take all the necessary steps to ensure full protection of the Hindu community. Their migration needs to be prevented at any cost to frustrate the evil designs of the communal and separatists forces in the Muslim community.

Source: Niti Central