Reign of Fear
Kishtwar violence may just be the sign of things to come

A rioting mob, frighteningly led by a child, in Kishtwar
A rioting mob, frighteningly led by a child, in Kishtwar

Deaths, injuries, arson, curfew are occurrences that make headlines every day in Jammu and Kashmir. Yet, the blood that spilled on August 9 in the Kishtwar district of the Jammu division of the state was of a different kind. Innocent blood for sure, but the cause was neither terrorism nor separatism. It was the age-old Indian malaise: communal violence. The Eid-ul-Fitr day aligned Kishtwar with the rest of the country in a manner Kashmiris would have never thought possible.

What exactly happened on that fateful day, the one-man judicial commission of retired Justice R.C Gandhi (of J&K high court) appointed by the state government on August 24 with a month’s deadline would probably tell, but the most common version goes something like this: A group of Muslim worshippers headed towards the Eidgah for Eid prayers. Along the way more people joined in and the group turned into a procession. Probably, some mischief-makers came along too and started shouting anti-India and pro-azadi slogans. The few Hindu passers-by got rattled and started throwing stones. The procession retaliated and the situation quickly went out of hand. There are a few variations to this story in terms of details, about who threw the first stone etc, but broadly the ostensible reason was the clash between nationalism and separatism.

According to a Kashmiri local, this is strange; because both streams of nationalism and separatism have co-existed in mutual accommodation in the state since Independence. “There are always some people who shout anti-India slogans on special occasions, but it has never led to a violent clash before,” he says. But things have certainly changed. And the change is evident in the comment of one Jammu shop-keeper. He says, “I believe in communal harmony, but if somebody burns my national flag I cannot remain quiet, even if it’s my own neighbour.”
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