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Tuesday, Dec 07, 2021
Outlook.com
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On Communal Clashes in Kishtwar

'This Was Not Merely A Problem Between Communities'

'I can tell you, if it does not stop in this region, it would send a signal of the kind it happened in the Valley in 1990-- which still hangs around our neck as a garland of shame -- when you had tried a system by which nobody came to know of what is

'This Was Not Merely A Problem Between Communities'
'This Was Not Merely A Problem Between Communities'
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

 Statement by the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, while speaking on "communal clashes in Kishtwar"

Sir, I am extemely grateful to you for allowing me to rai se an issue which is extremely sensitive and extremely important for this country. It is an issue which is not merely relating to relations between two communities in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, but I take it as an issue which relates to India's sovereignty and integrity.

Sir, unfortunate developments took place 23 years ago. They were selectively targeting a community. It turned into a mass protest and one community was compelled to leave th e Kashmir Valley. We are even today extremely sad about thos e developments. This country is still struggling to restore the status quo ante and send those people back; but we have not been a ble to do so. But, fortunately, in the last few month s, the situation, as far as terrorism is concerned, within the Valley, h as, somewhat, improved and we are all encouraged by that factor.

We want the situation to improve further so that in a state of tension -- there are anti-national elements which try and take benefit -- we don't want them to take the benefit. But, then, two important developments, in the last few days, have taken place. One on whi ch the hon. Defence Minister, a few days ago, made a statement, namely, that there has been an increased pressure from across th e border on the LoC and that the number of incursions have incr eased. The second one is, even though the Valley was relativel y peaceful, there has been some activity in the hilly regions of Jamm u which has been a matter of huge concern even before the recen t developments that took place. Now, Kishtwar is a d istrict of mixed population, as most of the districts in that region are. Historically, the community relationships in those districts have been extremely cordial. Tension between communities, etc., have be en very rare. There were a few instances of tension. Five years a go, during the Amarnath Yatra, there were some, but the y were all short-lived. And, finally, the situation there als o had improved.

For the past few days, several anti-national activities in Kishtwar, which was oth erwise a peaceful area, had increased. On the day of the holy festival of Eid, small insta nces led to a protest, a demonstration, and what took place there after has been extremely unfortunate and sad. The procession again started selective-targeting, and when selective-targeting started, it was brought to the notice of the Government of India at the highest level. The hon. Prime Minister was spoken to within , literally, minutes of these instances -- because between 1990 and 2013 there is a difference; people communicate on mobile phones; and now, they communicate on the Twitter, on e-mail. An d, within minutes, the information started reaching Delhi as to what had happened. People were crying out of helplessness a nd the Police was a mute spectator. There were complaints that a senior functionary of the State Government could have been involved, and that is a matter which requires to be investigated.

After this was reported, the matter was immediately brought to the notice of the highest in the Government, the hon. Prime Minister. In the early afternoon, we were all told that the situation was tense and the Army was being moved in. We kept telling everybody who communicated with us that the Army wa s being moved in and, hopefully, the situation would come u nder control. The functionaries of the district, whether it was th e District Magistrate, the Collector or the Senior Superintend ent of Police, were all spectators. They took no action.

As of yesterday evening, that is, three days after the incident, you have hundreds of shops being burnt, you have ho uses being ransacked and you have dozens of people injured. Th ey could not be treated in the Civil Hospital -- that was the ex tent of tension -- and they had to be taken to the Army Hospital. Som e of them had even to be moved out. You had vehicles being burnt . Also, you had some innocents who lost their lives. This situa tion should have been immediately brought under control. But, for t he next few hours, whereas we were saying that there was an ass urance from the Government of India that the Army was being mov ed in -- I do understand that the Home Ministry and the Defence M inistry went into action and said that the Army should be moved in -- it was only till late evening that the Army, which was otherwis e present close by, got into positioning. And in these six-seven h ours, there was mayhem in the town of Kishtwar and, obviously, when the word spread -- now you have more means of communication -- there was tension in all the neighbouring areas as a resu lt of this.

I do understand that the two concerned officials, t he District Magistrate and the SSP, had to be moved out because of their complicity or inaction. A friend of the BSP has be en complaining that the son of their District President has, unfortunately, died. I am sure, this would have happened to some others al so. We sympathize with them.

Now, what do we do in a situation like this? Do w e impose censorship so that nobody comes to know? Do we hav e an ostrich-like approach, that media would not be allo wed, nobody would be allowed into those areas? I do remember, Sir, when the Amarnath movement took place and there were vast protests both in the Jamm u region and in the Valley, Mr Shivraj Patil had taken a delegatio n of Members of Parliament there. We went to both the regions; we tried to cool down tempers. Thereafter, when the stone-throwing a gitation took place, Mr Chidambaram had taken an all-Party deleg ation which tried to meet everybody so that people exhausted th eir anger. And here, we have an approach: 'Let us just put an iron curtain on the State; let us not allow anybody to enter the State; and whoever is entering the State is only entering with the idea o f disturbing!' The media does not publish anything saying that you had this kind of a mayhem in the State. This was not merely a problem between communities. I can tell you, if it does not stop i n this region, it would send a signal of the kind it happened in the Valley in 1990-- which still hangs around our neck as a garland of s hame -- when you had tried a system by which nobody came to know of what is happening.

What happened to me personally yesterday, I consider it absolutely secondary. But, let me tell you, Sir, that even on that issue, the State of Jammu an d Kashmir is not a personal property of one family. It is an integra l part of India. And, you will have to decide how it is to be governed. One-and-a-half years ago I and my colleague from Lok Sabha, Smt Swaraj, went there. I respect Shri Chidambaram’s acumen as a law yer also; please examine it. Now, Section 144 is used to prev ent our entry into the State! What did we go for? We wanted to ad dress a rally in Jammu where the National Flag was to be hoisted. Se ction 144 is used to prevent our entry into the State; the two o f us were physically lifted and sent outside the State. Exter nment order under Section 144 was issued. Started this practice. This is exactly what happened yesterday. What if the BJP Governments sta rt imposing section 144 to prevent the entry of any AICC leader into their States? Will the media, which has been maintaining a stunning censorship on the issue, have the same double standards? India is not a banana republic where you can say that sectio n 144 will be imposed and you will extern people from the State a nd prevent their entry.

I was stunned to read the order; the order banning me from entering the State was open ended and indefinite. I t is not even limited in terms of a date. This is the plight of de mocracy in that State. And, this is happening. Forget Kishtwar, you can’t even enter Jammu which was otherwise absolutely peaceful . What have we done earlier when we had gone to Srin agar and Jammu when tensions were on? You go to guest ho uses and circuit houses, you call the people, you bring temp ers down, you listen to them, you find out what the facts are. An d these details should have been known.

Sir, this whole incident requires to be investigat ed. This incident is not merely, I repeat, an inter-communit y disturbance. In an inter-community disturbance, flags of a neighbou ring country are not brought out. Those who have waged a war against this country and have been given death sentence, their p hotographs are not displayed. It is not a law and order situat ion. This is an issue of India’s sovereignty. Therefore, I would urge the hon. Home Minister and, especially, the Finance Minister who is replying, to please treat it in that manner. Though who have suffered must be compensated and the guilty must be brought to book, we would also like to know, with the levels of accountability that we are being told, with regard to other States where all this ha s happened, why people are not arrested there so far. As of yesterd ay, I was told by informed sources that that was the position; if som ething has happened overnight after yesterday when I was given this information, I would be too happy to know this. It is a serious matter and, I think, if the Government of India tak es it lightly, then, we will have to pay the same price that we paid in relation to the Valley in 1990.

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