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2017-01-21 05:18:21

Mob attack in Kathua creates a sense of insecurity among Muslims of Jammu

A week after RSS activists attacked tribal Muslim families living in the Hari Chak village of Tehsil Mahreen in Kathua district, an uneasy calm prevails in the Jammu division, where most districts are Hindu-majority districts.

The trouble started on Monday, January 9, after tribal Muslims living in Hari Chak village were accused of slaughtering cow. Hearing this, a mob of more than 500 persons led by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists entered the village with sticks and country-made rifles and fired on the people which led to five injuries including a minor girl.

The incident has already caused a furore in the state with opposition cornering PDP-BJP coalition government in the state legislative assembly and separatist leader expressing their apprehensions by issuing statements and organising protests against the attack after Friday prayers across valley as way to express solidarity with Muslims living in Jammu division.

The latest attack on Muslims in Jammu division isn’t first of its kind to happen. In October 2015, three truckers from Kashmir were attacked by a group in Udhampur district after cow carcass were found in the district, which later led to one person being lynched to death. In the same year in December, the Village Defense Committee (VDC) member belonging to majority community killed one person named Ishtiaq Choudhary in Rajouri district. In the same week, a mother-son duo were also shot dead by VDC members.

Muslims across the state protested against VDC members and asked government to disband it, but the demands were not accepted as BJP made its stand clear by proposing to strengthen the VDCs.

“The rise in communal forces has happened to a greater extent after BJP made inroads in the state. Kishtwar riots in 2013 was a flashing point before the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. Keeping the society polarised helps the BJP because it keeps Hindu-Muslim votes divided, ” Waqqas Khan, 24, from Kishtwar district of J&K told TCN.

Importantly, the BJP which is enjoying power in coalition with PDP won all 25 seats in the 87 member assembly from Jammu division, which has 10 of the 22 districts of the state. Not surprisingly, the BJP failed to even open its account in the Kashmir division.

Further, Kathua, an overwhelmingly Hindu-majority district falls under the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency, which was won by Dr. Jatinder Singh, the BJP leader who is presently serving as Minister of State, PMO in 2014 general elections. The Legislative seat was also won by the BJP candidate, Rajeev Jasrotia.

“It is quite visible that Muslims in Jammu division feel quite unsafe as a small event could turn into a big communal incident,” said Irfan Ahmed, 30, a resident of Village Breswana in Prem Nagar, Doda.

“Even if an incident is not communal in nature, the vested interest associated with the right-wing party try to paint the incident with communal colours,” he added.

Mohd Azim, 46 from Bhaderwah, who has lived all his life alongside his Hindu neighbours and friends, says, “Eating anything was everyone’s personal choice but I don’t know how and when it became a cause of concern for the political parties. Most importantly, since the BJP came to power, the cow is being used as a tool to polarise the society.”

Following the January 9 incidents, a number of protests erupted in Kashmir. The Kishtwar Muslim Shoura committee also staged a protest led by Imam Jamia Masjid Kishtwar Farooq Ahmed Kitchloo carrying placards with messages, “RSS ki Deshad Gardi Band Karo, Band Karo”.

The protesters also demanded the government to constitute a committee to enquire into the attack, which is yet to be considered by the state government.

Yasin Malik, chairperson of separatist group JKLF alleged PDP-BJP government of promoting communalism in the state.

“Attacks on Muslims living in various parts of Jammu division is not acceptable to any Kashmiri and recent attacks in Kathua and criminal silence of so-called government on these attacks actually clears the fact that RSS led PDP-BJP rulers in Jammu Kashmir are hell-bent on destroying the fabrics of unity in our society and are promoting communalism for their lust of power and authority,” said Malik in a statement.

Hurriyat (M) chairperson Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also vehemently criticised RSS. “Attacking Muslims and intimidating them to instill fear and insecurity among them is part of the right-wing plan executed with the help of most-willing and servile collaborators who have completely lost it for the chair,” he said.

Independent MLA Engineer Rashid has asked the government to ensure the safety of the Muslims of the Jammu region. Rashid also accused police and civil administration of harassing Muslims from Kishtwar to Rajouri.

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