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Two killed in communal clashes in J&K

Two persons were killed, 42 others injured were gutted in communal clashes, police firing and a grenade blast at Kishtwar town of the Jammu region, reports HT Correspondents.

india Updated: Aug 13, 2008 00:05 IST
Naseer Khora and Arun Joshi

With the situation in Jammu and Kashmir snowballing with each passing day, there was every danger of the violence turning communal. On Tuesday, everybody’s worst nightmare came true as two persons were killed and 42 injured in communal clashes in Kishtwar town, where curfew has been imposed.

Hindus and Muslims came out on the streets of this town in northeast Jammu, fighting each other and indulging in arson and loot. Unable to control them, the police opened fire, injuring several people, two of them fatally.

The trigger: the ‘Muzaffarabad Chalo’ programme called by separatists and traders in the Valley, supported by the town’s minority community and opposed by the majority community, which is supporting the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti’s demand for transfer of land in Baltal to the shrine board.

It is unclear how the trouble started but according to one version, some miscreants threw a stone at a Muslim crowd gathered at Haryal Chowk. There was reportedly also a grenade explosion nearby that left a member of the mob dead. However, members of the minority community alleged that security forces hurled a grenade at them and opened fire. In the ensuing police firing, 13-year-old Gufran Ahmed was killed.

As the violence escalated, 30 shops and 11 houses were set ablaze. A petrol pump in Malik market was also destroyed and later burnt. Six of the injured were referred to the Government Medical College in Jammu while five were shifted to Doda.

Armed forces have been deployed in big numbers to ensure there is no untoward incident. Religious leaders of both communities have appealed to the general public to maintain harmony.

Singed by communal fire

If Kishtwar was burning, Rajouri and Poonch districts and Bhaderwah in Doda district were also fraught with communal tension with the two communities targeting each other’s property, cars and places of worship. In the initial days of the Jammu agitation, one person was killed and several agitators targeted with grenades.

There have also been reports of mobs torching 100 kullas (huts) of Gujjars (Muslims) in the Kanachak, Jourian, Ghagwal and Samba areas. At some places, the Gujjars “joined the protests against their wishes”, though the Samiti claimed the “Muslims were there of their own volition”. Jammu and Kashmir United Front president Mohammad Anwar Choudhary said the “atrocities” on the Gujjars went largely unnoticed.

There were also at least half-a-dozen instances in Banihal, Ganderbal and Anatnag where Amarnath pilgrims’ vehicles were reportedly stoned, a charge the Kashmiri leadership denies.

With communal passions high, so is fear on the streets, especially among the 4,000 Kashmiri Hindus living in the Valley, in case of a retaliation to the Jammu agitation.