J&K Governor’s deafening silence amid noise of mob madness
As terrified Kashmiri Muslims continue fleeing back to Valley, all that Satya Pal Malik’s admin is doing is facilitating their transportation. Observers know he is not even doing this job properly
On Friday, when the rioters mounted attack on Gujjar Nagar in the heart of Jammu city, even an octogenarian Army veteran was not spared. The hooligans pelted stones on Mohammad Aslam Khan’s house and vandalised his son’s newly bought auto-rickshaw.
Eighty-one-year-old Khan is paralysed waist down and is wheel-chair bound for the past several years. The rickshaw was the family’s only source of income besides his pension.
Even though security forces had been stationed in and around Jammu city, they were not given orders to act against the rioters as they went on a rampage, burning vehicles and destroying property belonging to a particular community.
While police have arrested 120 people involved in arson, the winter capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir remains on the edge following Friday’s rioting that broke out during supposed protest over the Pulwama terror attack.
Amid ongoing protests and hate attacks on a particular community, what is striking is the administrative inertia. Despite information being forwarded by Intelligence agencies, Governor Satya Pal Malik’s administration did not deploye required number of security personnel in sensitive areas such as Gujjar Nagar, Residency Road and Janipur.
On Friday morning, when a rally reached Vivekanand Chowk, there was hardly any police accompanying the protestors to ensure that demonstrators don’t raise provocative slogans or enter sensitive areas.
The district administration declared curfew at around 2:30 PM but, by then, over a hundred vehicles had already been damaged or set ablaze and the stretch between Gujjar Nagar and Vivekanand Chowk had turned into a war zone with vehicles burning everywhere.
Members of the minority community in Gujjar Nagar, which was the epicentre of arson and rioting, recall slogans as the mob approached their homes: “Bharat Mata ki jai. India mei rehna hai toh Vande Matram kehna hai”.
According to them, the protesters—most of them druggies and alcoholics—burned tyres and shouted inflammatory slogans such as “Allah-Ullah kehn ni dena, ek bhi Sulla rehn ni dena”. (We will not let anyone recite Allah’s name. We will not let any Muslim stay here anymore).”
“The Army as well as police forces were stationed in the sensitive areas but their hands were tied as they didn’t have any official order to control the rioters,” a senior police officer said on the condition of anonymity. “The police or the Army can’t take action on their own. They need directives from higher ups, which were not issued by the administration till late in the evening,” he added.
The senior police officer went on to state that the Governor’s administration woke up from deep slumber and clamped curfew only after media and civil society raised a hue and cry over total breakdown of law and order.
“Had the curfew been strictly imposed on Friday morning, there would have been no arson, vandalism or violence in Jammu but it is still unclear why such a laid back approach was adopted by state administration,” he wondered.
Reacting to the incidents of arson and rioting, president of Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry Rakesh Gupta, who had given the call for Jammu Bandh on February 15, told local media, “There were apprehensions about communal flare-up on Thursday night. The administration didn’t ensure adequate deployment of forces in the sensitive areas of the city.”
“Had the administration taken proper security measures, Jammu district would not have been shamed today,” he added, describing the incidents of violence as “shameful.”
The Kashmir Economic Alliance Chairman Muhammad Yasin Khan also criticised the administration for “giving a free hand to the goons” to target a particular community. Khan, who also heads the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, said: “In Kashmir, pellets and bullets are fired on protesters, but in Jammu rioters are given a free hand only because they apparently enjoy the blessings of some politicians.”
Even during the curfew and with the Army conducting flag marches in sensitive areas, there have been intermittent reports of rioters targeting business establishments at night. Also, Kashmiri transporters are being targeted on the National Highway.
Notably, Jammu city, that has become home to Pakistani refugees, militancy affected migrants over the decades, has never seen such violent protests in the past. Even during the Amarnath land row agitation, when Jammu was on the boil for over two months, the minority community wasn’t targeted this way.
As terrified Kashmiri Muslims continue fleeing in droves back to the Valley, all that Satya Pal Malik’s administration is doing is facilitating their transportation. And the observers know that he is not even doing this job properly!