Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday expressed concern over sectarian clashes ahead of the forthcoming assembly elections of 2014 and warned that "an attempt is being made to polarise society with an eye on vote bank".
"Elements dividing society on sectarian and communal lines expand their activities soon elections draw nearer," Abdullah said during a meeting with Shia sect leaders here.
Violent clashes marred nearly 30 villages of central Kashmir's Budgam district, 20 km from here, last month. Dozens of houses, religious places and public property was damaged in week-long clashes between the two communities. A woman died during the clashes.
"They (communal elements) want to polarise society, create conflicts between various sections, sects, faiths, regions and castes keeping eye on votes," the chief minister said.
Speaking to a delegation of Majlis-e-Tahfuz-e-Itihaad (MTI), one of the civil society bodies constituted to pacify tension in Budgam, Abdullah said: "There is a need to nurture brotherhood between Shia and Sunni Muslims to defeat nefarious designs." He asked all communities to remain vigilant against the elements who propagated trifle incidents into conflicts between two groups for their personal benefits.
The chief minister announced one month's free ration for the families affected by the clashes in Budgam. The government has asked the divisional commissioner, Kashmir, to be the nodal officer for assessing the damages caused to various families in the clashes. "The divisional commissioner will be given directions to complete the damage assessment report within the shortest possible time so that a comprehensive rehabilitation programme is launched for them," Abdullah said.
The government has asked the horticulture, agriculture, rural development and revenue departments "to dovetail their schemes to help rehabilitation of the affected families and restoration of their agriculture and horticulture activities".
Meanwhile, the MTI raised the issue with the chief minister of releasing those who had been arrested. A government spokesperson said the chief minister told the delegation that he would ask the police department to review their cases and release those who were not involved in serious acts and crimes after obtaining assurance from their families that they would not repeat their troublesome and peace-disturbing actions.