Kishtwar Judicial Panel Favours Arming Muslims

Holds DC, police officers responsible for negligence

SRINAGAR: Giving a clean chit to former MoS Home, Justice (Retd) Gandhi Commission, probing August 9, Kishtwar communal riots has recommended formation of Muslim Village Defense Committees (VDC’s) on the pattern of such committees comprised of Hindus.

Meanwhile Sajad Ahmad Kichloo who had resigned as MoS Home is all set to be re-inducted into Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s council of ministers on Saturday. The development followed the release of an interim report, submitted by the Commission. The commission  has exonerated Kichloo from his alleged involvement in the incident.

Reliable sources revealed that chief minister Omar Abdullah has written to Governor N N Vohra requesting him to administer the oath of office and secrecy to Kichloo in Jammu on Saturday.  

Besides giving a clean chit to Kihcloo the Commission has recommended formation of Muslim Village Defense Committees (VDCs). 

Reliable sources said that Qazir Sarwar, secretary to commission handed over interim report in which Justice (Retd) Gandhi has slammed different wings of police including CID and administration for non cooperation.

The report according to sources held former DC, DIG, SP and police personnel on field duty and magistrates of violence hit areas responsible for negligence of duty. The DIG has also been found guilty of administrative lapses, KNS quoting ‘well placed’ sources revealed. The commission has also grilled senior police officer for not registering an FIR into the case pertaining to attack on MoS Home Sajad Kitchloo, these sources said.

Justice (Retd) Gandhi has also in his report treated Kitchloo as a victim and not an accused. He has also advocated for formation of Muslim VDCs so as to make a balancing act or otherwise according to him there will be a feel of insecurity among the Muslim community that can prove fatal for the law and order in future as well. In simple words, sources said, he has recommended either disbanding of VDCs or formation of Muslim VDCs, sources added.

The Commission is expected to submit its final report in next two months. During the course of investigation, Justice (Retd) Gandhi cross examined over 300 persons including some key witnesses, a senior National Conference leader said.

Kitchloo, had on August 12, tendered his resignation over the issue of Kishtwar violence saying: “Some political parties are trying to malign my name. I am innocent and have done no wrong.”

Kichloo’s resignation had come after a strong demand from the opposition and an uproar in the Parliament after communal clashes in the region in which three people were reportedly killed.  The chief minister Omar Abdullah had later ordered a time-bound judicial probe into the violence.

“I want the truth should come out. Chief Minister has ordered a judicial probe [by a retired High Court judge]. My conscience does not allow me to continue as a Minister till the probe files its findings,” Mr. Kichloo said in a press conference. He had said he was resigning for he didn’t want his presence to cast shadow on an independent probe. “Mr Omar Abdullah is my leader and I have full faith in him and above all I have an endearing faith in Almighty. Truth shall prevail and justice will be done,” he had said. 

BACKGROUND: The idea of VDCs was first mooted in 1995 by the government to protect villagers from militants in Jammu and Kashmir. By 1996, 10 districts of Jammu and the district of Leh in Ladakh had fully operational groups of armed villagers to defend against attacks by militants. Initially, members of both communities were approached, but most of the Muslims refused to take the offer, partly because many were sympathetic to the separatist cause, while others feared that accepting weapons from the government would make them the target of militants.

In the 10 districts of Jammu province and the Leh district in Ladakh, there are 26,567 VDC members. Around 96 percent of them are Hindus. The Jammu zone also has the highest number of SPOs in the state: 15,366 out of a total of 25,474. 

However, with militancy dropping considerably, VDC’s are now turning out to be the reason for a major trust deficit between the two communities. The decline of militancy has made the Muslims scared of armed Hindus in their midst, especially in times of communal tension. Hindus, on their part, are not ready to trust the Muslims, more so when the region, they believe, is still “dormant with militancy”.

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