The timeline clearly points to two important things, one being that Kishtwar town was seething, and the other, total collapse of the administration.
Deputy chief minister Tara Chand on Friday evening, eight hours after violence was reported, and an hour before the curfew announced, said the situation turned violent as police force was not adequate.
“Disturbances were going on for the past one month as some elements were creating fear. Administration deliberately ignored the writing on the wall. The Centre should take serious note of it and a CBI inquiry should be held,” said former minister and MLA GM Saroori, who represents Inderwal constituency in the Kishtwar district.
The situation was becoming polarised, some say deliberately, for quite some time. Locals said that in the past month, reports had been received of unknown people throwing stones at houses at night, even though the district administration and police knew about it.
Hardliner separatist Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani, two days before the incident, issued a statement alleging that Hindus were doing such things to terrorise Muslims and asked Muslims to protest against the Village Defence Committee (comprising mostly Hindus).
“About fifteen days ago, the deputy inspector general told citizens that the town was sitting on a communal volcano,” said Omar Malik, a local lawyer.
Intelligence agencies had warned people about impending communal clash. Even local taxi operators had asked pilgrims who had come for annual Machil yatra, to leave the town at the earliest.
“Administration, acting on the advice of state for home Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, hatched a conspiracy against the minorities. It is an attempt to terrorise them so they would migrate. It is a political move, but we will not let it succeed. Hindus will not move,” alleged local BJP leader Sunil Sharma.
Former BJP MLA Bali Bhagat, who hails from Kishtwar, said, “I met the Jammu IG two days ago and told him that the situation was worsening and anything could happen. However, the administration took no preventive steps.”
There is a strong perception among locals that such incidents have increased when elections are round the corner. While Congress leaders say that it is an attempt to weaken the party, others believe it started after the local MLA was inducted into the state cabinet.
“It is unfortunate that a minor incident resulted in such large-scale violence. Administration should have acted tough,” said Imam of Kishtwar Farooq Ahmad Kitchloo.
Kishtwar district has an almost-even population of both the communities. When terrorism began in the state while it was part of the erstwhile Doda district, minorities were targeted, but they stayed there and were also supported by other communities.
Bonds strained, not broken
Even after such violence, bonds of communal harmony seem to have been only temporarily strained as on Friday evening, a Hindu wedding procession was by Muslims in a Muslim-dominated locality.
July 29: Tension after majority community objected during Kalash yatra in town, two youth injured
Aug 7: Hardliner Geelani Said Muslims in Jammu region are being threatened, asked people to protest against Village Defence Committee(VDC) after Eid prayers
Aug 7: BJP leader Bali Bhagat leading a delegation calls on IGP Jammu, Apprises him about polarization and communlisation in Kishtwar.
Aug 7: Posters of Azal Guru and Maqboob Bhat, both hanged for anti-India activities, pasted in Kishtwar town with message that freedom can be achieved through Jehad(holy war) .
July 9 time line
9.30 first incident of violence reported
11 am : District administration holds meeting about imposing curfew
12 pm: Curfew officially announced
1 Pm: Deliberations start with Army
2.30: Army formally stages flag march, but even then officially didn't take control.
8pm : Army formally takes charge and curfew gets in