Crisis in Kishtwar

The killing of an RSS leader and his security guard has once again cast spotlight on Kishtwar. The leader Chandrakant Sharma was attacked in broad day light at the town’s hospital. The incident has thrown the area into turmoil. Sharma’s funeral was accompanied by protests and violence. The region is tense and the already fragile Hindu-Muslim relations have further strained. Authorities have had to impose curfew for days on end to maintain calm. More so, when the murder of the RSS leader has followed the killing of the BJP leader Anil Parihar and the brother Ajeet Parihar earlier in November. 

The killings have created a fear that the militancy may be returning to Chenab Valley.  The police has so far detained several suspects and claimed to have identified the person responsible for the killings.  The operations have been going on to track down  the newly recruited militants. The effort is to stop the militancy from spreading through the region. General Officer in Commanding, White Knight Corps, Maj Gen Paramjit Singh  has said that the security forces will not allow militancy to revive in Kishtwar.  But again while doing so, the exclusive reliance on the anti-militancy operations would hardly do. In fact, it would only lend further rationale to the militancy. 

The violent inter-communal history of the Chenab Valley spanning past 30 years and its meshing with competitive extremist politics has deeply polarized what was once a largely untroubled region, albeit always politically charged with a separatist undertow.  Prior to 1989 when jihad in the region began from village Ghat adjoining Doda town, Chenab Valley  was a political stronghold of National Conference. Muslims of the region are from Kashmiri ethnic stock and therefore trace their ideological and political outlook to Kashmir Valley, whileas Hindus are of mixed Kashmiri and Dogra descent and identify themselves with Hindu majority Jammu and mainland India

Two decades of relentless bloodletting has unhinged the old communal bonds. The distrust and suspicion runs deep, bordering at times on paranoia. Though tied together through centuries of deep cultural bond, both communities  now feel the need to defend themselves against each other. Decline of militancy  over the past one and a half decade has made Muslims suddenly aware of an armed Hindu community living amidst them and who they need to fear in the event of a communal tension. And Hindus, on the other hand, are not ready to trust Muslims for their security, more so when the region, they believe, is still “dormant with militancy.

This makes Chenab Valley challenging to handle for the authorities. But not if the government chooses not to apply the failed muscular policy it has tried in Kashmir Valley to Chenab. Government and the political parties should try and take measures to bridge the communal divide in the region rather than widen it further.

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