Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha led committee has come up with a report saying religious divide in the conflict-hit state has clearly been deepened in recent years as communalism has taken deep roots.
“People point out that even the courts in Jammu and Kashmir are divided–the two benches in Jammu and Srinagar gave differing rulings on unfurling of the state flag, for example. This has caused fissures in the state’s social stability”, the report reads.
The group comprising Yashwant Sinha, Air Vice Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak, executive secretary of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Sushobha Barve and senior journalist Bharat Bhushan had recently visited the state.
The report says the latest issue that has flagged the rise in communalism in Jammu is the brutal rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim Bakkarwal girl, Asifa, in Kathua allegedly by a Hindu.
“The attempt apparently was to frighten and evict the nomadic Bakkarwals from the land they occupied. Some local leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with an outfit called the Hindu Ekta Manch have taken out public rallies with the tricolour in hand shouting slogans which suggest that Muslims are pro-Pakistan and need to be dealt with swiftly”, the report reads.
“A prominent local Muslim businessman summed up how he felt saying, 'I belong to Jammu and have never felt unsafe here. But now even I have started feeling insecure. What am I to make out of the Hindu Ekta Manch taking out a protest march waving the national flag over the Asifa rape case shouting - Those who want Pakistan will be sent to Qabristan (burial ground)? The only person who needs to be sent to Qabristan is the rapist. Even in the case of a rape, we are totally divided. This is frightening.
“The communal divide in Jammu is being promoted by politically ambitious leaders who are intent on tearing apart the rich and diverse social fabric of the region for their short-term political benefits. Some prominent citizens, however, lamented the fact that local civil society organisations had not countered the communal narrative surrounding Asifa’s rape and murder. Others said that there was no civil society in Jammu and that the space for civil society’s activities had been taken over by communal politicians”, the report says.
The added: “Not only is Jammu getting polarised communally, even the State Legislative Assembly has been polarised after the terrorist attack on the Sunjuwan army camp. Increasingly the perception is that there is a ‘Hindu Jammu’ ruled by the BJP and then there is ‘Muslim Kashmir’ ruled by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) – i.e. there is a communal division of labour between the two political allies which govern the state. Many believe that the PDP-BJP government thrives on communal divisions by promoting polarising voices to represent the sentiment in Jammu and in the Valley. This divides and alienates people. This was described as ‘soft separatism’ by a public intellectual.”