Centre, Opposition spar over Kishtwar; more injured in fresh violence

The government and the opposition clashed over the communal violence in Kishtwar that claimed three lives since Friday and led to the unceremonious exit of state`s Home Minister Sajjad Kichloo over the issue on Monday.

Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava

New Delhi: Amid a war of words between the government and the Opposition over failing to control the communal violence in Kishtwar, that claimed the lives of three people since Friday and led to the resignation of state’s Home Minister Sajjad Kichloo, the issue rocked both Houses of Parliament on Monday.

While the Centre and the Jammu & Kashmir government took concerted efforts to bring back normalcy to Kishtwar, the BJP-led Opposition blamed the Congress government for failing to curb the violence in Jammu.

Responding to the Opposition’s criticism, the Centre assured that there will be no forced migration from the region as it happened in 1990.

Even as Finance Minister P Chidambaram dismissed fears that the Kishtwar trouble would lead to a 1990 situation when Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley after the separatist campaign began, fresh violence were reported in Kishtwar in which 10 people, including a senior police official, were injured.

Addressing concerns of the Opposition, Centre ruled out any terror or "external aggression" link to the communal violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

Finance Minister, speaking in the Rajya Sabha on behalf of indisposed Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, said the overall situation in the state is under control even as members warned that the recent events should not be treated as mere inter-community clash as the country`s "sovereignty and integrity" is at stake.

The House saw an impromptu discussion on the situation in the state after Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley raised the issue of violence that began in Kishtwar town on Friday last and spread to other areas of Jammu province.

The BJP leader`s concerns over the situation were echoed by several other members like BSP chief Mayawati, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (Trinamool), Karan Singh (Cong), D Raja (CPI), V Maitreyan (AIADMK), T M Selvaganapathy (DMK) and K C Tyagi (JD-U).

Responding to the concerns and apprehensions, Chidabmaram said, "It would not be correct to assume or believe that an undercurrent of tension between one community and another is necessarily related to terrorism or to external aggression."

Contending that he was "fairly acquainted" with the "challenges that Jammu and Kashmir faces and consequently, India faces", the Minister said, "There is the challenge of infiltration and aggression. There is the challenge of terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the (Kashmir) Valley."

Sufficient Army contingents had been deployed in violence-hit areas and they conducted flag marches, he said, adding the Centre will extend all help to the state.

Giving details of the incident, he said the situation in Kishtwar was "near normal" and no untoward incident had been reported since August 9.
While noting that violence had been witnessed in some other parts of Jammu province, the minister said, "Overall situation in Jammu and Kashmir is tense but under control."

Meanwhile, the military remained deployed in curfew-bound Kishtwar and seven other districts of Jammu region, namely Rajouri, Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Reasi, Udhampur and Doda. Only Poonch and Ramban in Jammu region were curfew-free.

Taking moral responsibility for the violence, Kashmir Home Minister Kitchloo submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who forwarded it to Governor NN Vohra.

Kitchloo, who represents Kishtwar in the State Assembly, came under criticism for the alleged poor handling of the communal clashes that later spread to other parts of Jammu region.

J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah ordered a judicial inquiry headed by a retired High Court judge to establish the truth behind Friday`s violence in the district that left three persons dead and 20 others injured.

The Governor later accepted the resignation, an official statement said.
Fresh clashes broke out today in Hidyal area of Kishtwar as locals defied curfew to protest against the arrest of a youth for his alleged involvement in the communal violence in the area.

Trouble started when police tried to stop protesters including women from marching for violating curfew which has been in operation for four days.

Importantly, an all-party delegation will visit violence-hit areas in Jammu region`s Kishtwar district with a message of peace and communal harmony in the days to come.

The all-party delegation will visit Kishtwar after the situation in parts of Jammu division improves.

This decision was taken at an all-party meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, at his official residence soon after the resignation of minister of State for Home Sajad Kitchloo over Kishtwar clashes.

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