Watching from the sidelines
Whichever way one looks at the violence in Kishtwar and Doda districts, it's clear that the state government failed in its duty to act decisively when the first signs of trouble became noticeable.india Updated: Aug 12, 2013 22:55 IST
A stitch in time saves nine. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah would do well to memorise the phrase by heart.
This is because whichever way one looks at the violence in Kishtwar and Doda districts, it's clear that the state government failed in its duty to act decisively when the first signs of trouble became noticeable in these districts two months ago, despite knowing that this area has always been communally sensitive.
On Monday, Mr Abdullah ordered a time-bound judicial probe into the incidents in Kishtwar and accepted the resignation of Sajad Kitchloo, the controversial minister of state for home who has been blamed for the riots by rival political parties.
The riots started on Eid in Kishtwar and Doda and later spread to other parts in the region including Jammu city and Rajouri town. On Monday, curfew remained in force in six districts of the Jammu region and the issue rocked Parliament.
Kishtwar has had riots in 1994 and 2008 and, therefore, the state government should have been extra vigilant when things started going awry two months ago.
According to reports, rumours started that stones were being thrown at homes of minority communities in Kishtwar and Doda and that members of the local Village Defence Committees (VDC) were responsible for these attacks.
It is important to remember the legacy of the VDCs here: they were formed to fight terror and they helped stop the migration of the majority community from Doda. Then in July, a senior police officer had warned that the Doda-Kishtwar area was sitting on a "communal volcano".
Electorally also, the Jammu region has been at the centre of a tug-of-war between the Congress and the BJP and so it is not surprising that the two wanted to make the most of the present situation.
In the 2008 elections, held in the backdrop of the Amarnath land row, the Congress had suffered in the Jammu region but showed better results in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts.
Over the years, the BJP has lost ground in Jammu even though Doda has been one of the important points in the BJP's politics because in the early 1990s it started the Doda Bachao Andolan.
On August 7, just two days before Eid, hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani said that the minority community in the Jammu region was being threatened and asked the people to protest against VDC members after the Eid prayers.
On the same day, posters of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt, both hanged for anti-India activities, were found in Kishtwar with the message that freedom can be achieved only through jihad.
While Mr Abdullah is right in saying that political parties must stop playing politics over the riots, the truth is by not tackling the situation when the first signs of trouble surfaced, it is his government that laid the ground for such political interference and violence in the area.