1. Case No.
2. Case Description
3. Country Information – J&K State (India)
5. Date of Investigation – September 3rd and September 4th 2013
6. Investigative Team – Civil Society Sub-Committee:
Consequent upon our deputation by the J&K Civil Society-Jammu in the form of a Sub-Committee, our Team visited Kishtwar district headquarters on 3rd and 4th September 2013. The decision was taken on the basis of the Resolution passed unanimously by the House on 25th August 2013 at Jammu Club in a Seminar titled ‘KISHTWAR: Reminiscent of Kashmir 1931’. It was decided by the full House to form a Committee of five members comprising S/Shri Ashwani Sharma MLA, Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo, Human Rights Activist, Dr. Jitendra Singh, Intellectual and columnist, Dineshwar Singh Jamwal, Civil Rights Activist, and Sardar KCS Mehta, Educationist. Shri Ashwani Sharma, MLA was assigned the responsibility of the Chairman of the Committee. The Sub-committee was formed, in a meeting of the Committee on Ist September 2013, to visit Kishtwar, make an on the spot assessment and prepare an Interim Report on the situation.
On the basis of the newspaper and electronic media reports and the situation that prevailed in the Jammu province after the event of 9th August 2013 at Kishtwar, we conducted an assessment exercise. This interim report is based upon the enquiries made from the common citizens, minority community victims, parents of the killed minority Hindu community member, on the spot visit of the places of incidents, interaction with the district civil and police administration and interviews with various people in the town and villages adjacent to the town. It needs to be mentioned that we also came across some serious footages and photographs of violence and arson pertaining to the 9th August 2013 unfortunate and gory incidents.
The Team members visited some remote areas as well and met some important Village Defence Committee members also and sought their opinion about the incidents and the situation that prevailed before the 9th August carnage. Traders, farmers, teachers and victims met the team and expressed their opinion freely and frankly. The minority Hindu community members met the Team at various places. It was given to understand to the team that a couple of Muslims also attended the prominent citizens meet at TRC-Kishtwar but they did not identify themselves. The list of the witnesses will be appended in the Final Report of the Committee.
1. On 9th August 2013, the day of EID, large scale violence was let loose in Kishtwar town in which around one hundred shops and houses of the common citizens of Kishtwar were looted, burnt and razed to the ground.
2. There was news about the killing of a Hindu minority community boy in the media.
3. Reports of the day suggested more killings but a clear picture was not made available by the media and the administration.
4. It was said that the township had been put under curfew at 2.00 PM.
5. There were reports that Mr. Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo, the Minister of State for Home of the J&K State was camping in the town and was a witness to the mayhem.
6. Army was called in the town, as per preliminary reports, which brought the situation under control.
7. There was a big hue and cry over the unfortunate happenings which attracted the Parliament’s attention as well.
8. Due to enormous pressure, the Minister of State for Home had to resign and a judicial enquiry was ordered by the government.
9. Situation in the town and sub-urbs remained tense and the Jammu region observed a three day strike and Bandh.
10. The government announced compensation to the victims of the violence and mayhem, which was supposed to be increased after the ensuing Cabinet decision.
Visit to the affected areas (Details)
1. The Team, well before its visit, sent information regarding the visit through the print and electronic media to the public at large. Immediately after reaching the venue on 3rd September 2013, the Team held a meeting of the prominent citizens at TRC-Kishtwar. The meeting was attended by a good number of people from various walks of life. Mr. Rajinder Singh of Hadiyal gave a brief of the situation followed by a number of presentations by the other participants.
2. It was conveyed to the team by the participants that whatever happened in Kishtwar did not happen all of a sudden though the decision to choose the day of EID for the attack on minorities was ‘unexpected’. The Hindu minority community was taken unawares. The community members in fact were interested in exchanging greetings to their Muslim brethren on the auspicious day of Eid. But thousands of people with lethal tools in their hands attacked the shops, houses and people of the Hindu minority community.
3. There were clear indications of the mounting trouble on 28th July 2013 when the Kalash Yatra was attacked at Sangrambata village. A young man Ranmeet Singh’s bike was burnt down and he was beaten by the miscreants, unfortunately, the members of Muslim community. The Yatra was forced to change its route on its return. It was alleged that the police took no action even after filing of the FIR. On 2nd of August 2013, inflammatory speeches were made at a Muslim congregation near the Bus stand of Kishtwar. In the speeches, a dispute was given birth to over a shrine which belongs to the Hindu minority community of Kishtwar. Some posters had started appearing in the town asking the Muslim population ‘to rise against India’.
4. On 4th August 2013, a rally-procession was organised at Nali Banjwa village in which the speakers spitted venom against the Hindu minorities of the area. Preliminary investigations revealed that the inflammatory speeches were made by Moulana Irshad Ahmed S/O Abdul Sattar, Gayoor Javed S/O Javed Ahmed Mir, Javed Ahmed S/O Ab. Qayoom and Naushad, a Follower in Police Department. They raised voices which terrified the local minority population and went to the extent to ask the people ‘to burn the Hindu people’. It is reported that the administration later lodged an FIR against all these speakers. On 4th August 2013, a Hindu youth of Hatta village was beaten by a group of Muslim boys near the Bus Stand. One Hindu SPO Tilak Raj, in police uniform, was manhandled near the Bus Stand and he got various stitches on his head in the hospital. Another youth named Rakesh Kumar of village Pochal was beaten by the Muslim youth in the late evening hours on the same day.
5. On 6th August 2013, an army man was beaten and slogans were raised against the Indian Army and the minority Hindu community. The eye witnesses confirmed that some labourers from outside the state were threatened by the Muslim youth and asked to vacate Kishtwar. On 7th and 8th August 2013, a number of posters were pasted in the Kishtwar Town and particularly in the Kitchloo Mohalla. There are confirmed reports that the Intelligence agencies sent ‘notable dispatches’ narrating these developments to their bosses in Jammu, Srinagar and New Delhi. The posters depicted Shabir Shah, Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guroo. These posters asked people “to awake and arise as freedom could not be achieved by sitting silent”.
6. During the intervening night of August 8th and 9th 2013, a large group of Muslim population assembled at Chatroo and raised slogans against Hindus and India. There was a whispering crusade going on against the VDCs and a large scale calculated campaign against the VDC members was unleashed by the vested interests on all available occasions. There are reports, as per witnesses who deposed before the Team, regarding a conniving loot of the gun shop in the Kitchloo Market before the unfortunate incident of 9th August 2013. Some campaigns involving certain ‘superstitions’ were also unleashed by the vested interests for a couple of months before the unfortunate incidents of 9th August 2013. All attempts to arouse passions were made for a couple of months before the doom’s day in Kishtwar district.
7. On the day of Eid, the 9th August 2013, a procession comprising around one thousand people assembled outside Kishtwar town. Members of the Muslim community from Sangrambhata, Hullar, Puhi, Bandrna and Honzala in the procession/s took the route of Zelna, Vasar and Kuleed. People were carrying rods, plastic cans, and some sharp edged weapons with them. They started creating trouble in Kuleed Chowk where they raised anti-India slogans. Immediately, Pakistan flags were also seen on the spot. Hindus were abused and beaten, their shops and houses were looted and burnt within minutes. Some substance was used, as per the witnesses, which ignited the fire and even iron melted within minutes. The people were offering Namaz at Chogaan and a big group of them also joined the mayhem and started setting on fire vehicles, buses and trucks. A boy named Arvind Raj Bhagat (26) was beaten and killed. He was fired a number of shots from the gun in possession of the marauders. The miscreants kept on burning and looting the shops, vehicles and houses on the main road of Kishtwar, right before the office of the Dy. Commissioner, near Dak Banglow, outside the office of the SSB, adjacent to the Police district headquarters and the Police Station. The crowd went berserk and reached the Bus stand and took the route of Gudali chowk and went inside the Amar Market and set everything ablaze…the shops, the go-downs and even looted the shops of the minority community members. The eye-witnesses said that slogans like “Jisey Jammu Kashmir mein rahna hoga-Allaho Akbar kahna hoga”, “Hindustani Kutoon par lanat hai-lanat hai”, “Pakistan Zindabad”, “Hindustan Murdabad”, “Jala do-jala do Hindu ko Jala do” etc. rented the air continuously during the whole period of mayhem and arson.
8. The minority victims of Kishtwar held the then Minister of State for Home, Mr. Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo responsible for the destruction. Police and the civil administration under his control was a mute spectator during the whole episode. It is established by the circumstantial evidences that the police and civil administration failed to control the situation. Whether it was an error of omission or an error of commission needs to be probed and investigated further at strategic levels. Though the Team met the District civil and police administration, but it did not deal the above said aspect conclusively. We are thankful to the DC Kishtwar Mr. B.A.Khan for his candid admission that ‘when I took over, it was total anarchy in Kishtwar’. He discussed the issue with the team in a cordial atmosphere and assured help and justice. The Team also met the SSP Mr. Sanjay Kotwal at his office. Mr. Kulbir Singh, a senior police officer was present in the meeting. We brought to his notice the mood of the minority Hindu community in Kishtwar and their complaints about the police department and personnel. He was also told about the complaints against Mr. Farooq Kesar, Dy.SP who, it is said, escorted the frenzied mob on 9th August 2013.
9. Though the government has taken certain steps after the incidents of 9th August 2013, which resulted in the transfer of DC and SSP but the victims did not feel satisfied with the decisions. They wanted the culprits to be brought to the book including the higher ups in the police and civil administration besides the miscreants who were involved in the heinous crimes.
10. We also addressed a press conference at TRC-Kishtwar on 4th September 2013 and gave our initial impressions about the incidents and the visit to the town.
A Pattern that could not be ignored:
Hindu minority shops gutted and destroyed:
1993 = 54
1998 = 34
2003 = 55
2008 = 56
2013 = 91
Though this pattern leads to particular conclusions, yet the Team would like to comment upon it in its Final Report after having a pointed discussion with the administration and the members of the Muslim majority community on the subject. The heavy losses suffered by the minority community in Kishtwar need no semantics to prove its authenticity. The losses are stark and visible and tragic too.
Conclusions and Suggestions:
1. There is a visible failure of the government in Kishtwar district in context of 9th August 2013 horrendous incidents. The misleading statements about the imposition of curfew, its timing and actual imposition on ground, and seeking the help of army needs a thorough probe. The Hindu minority community in Kishtwar is under serious threat of ethnic cleansing. The threat needs to be examined by the Civil Society and the government is requested to bring out a white paper on the subject.
2. The VDCs are a big source of ‘sense of security’ for the minorities in the hilly areas and particularly of Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts. They need to be strengthened further, irrespective of its ‘political fall-out’, in the national interest.
3. The guilty, howsoever big or small they may be, should be punished as per law to instill confidence in the peace loving citizens of the Kishtwar district.
4. Interaction between various sections of population and the civil and police administration needs to be given a priority involving members of political and social organisations at all levels so that the issues could be sorted out without fail.
5. The Chief Minister, being the Home Minister of the state too, has not visited Kishtwar till date. This is a sorry state of affairs particularly when his deputy has been forced to resign under pressure. He is expected to pay a visit to the district and take cognizance of the complaints of the people against the government and resolve their concerns about security of their life, welfare and peaceful co-existence.
6. The government has failed to provide any relief to the victims of the carnage. It speaks volumes about the non-seriousness of the government and the administration. We recommend that the compensation, as declared by the government and as enhanced vide recent cabinet decision, proportionate to the individual losses, be provided to the victims of the violence forthwith.
7. The Sub-committee of the J&K Civil Society-Jammu feels conscious of its duties towards the people of Kishtwar. In order to go to the root of the concerns of the people, the full Committee of the Civil Society may make a visit to the hilly district, after release of the Initial Report. Final Report on the unfortunate happenings of the 9th August 2013 will be released in due course of time.
1. Press cutting of the 9th August 2013 happenings,
2. Photographs as published by the media,
3. Photograph of the visit of the Team to Kishtwar on 3rd and 4th September 2013
Submitted to IndiaOpines by Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo