Monday, August 12, 2013

Chidambaram defends govt response to Kishtwar violence - Times of India

NEW DELHI: Finance minister P Chidambaram — standing in for home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde — told the RajyaSabha on Monday that violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Kishtwar on the day of Eid when a procession of 500 Muslims got into an altercation with one individual.

Chidambaram said some misguided youth in the procession were raising "azadi" slogans — a common practice in J&K witnessed during the weekly Friday prayer.

The statement struck many because of the forthrightness with which Chidambaram identified the religious affiliations of the warring groups, instead of taking shelter behind the euphemism of "two communities" that has been used since the time when the government, with its monopoly over information, could blank out such references.

Chidambaram dismissed allegations about the delayed deployment of Army, saying they were in place by the same evening, and disarmed the protest of BJP's Ravishankar Prasad against the use of Section 144 for not letting his leader Arun Jaitley enter Jammu on Sunday.

The finance minister argued that this was not the right time for Jaitley and others to visit Jammu, while quipping that Section 144 did not differentiate among people on the basis of stature. "Section 144 is status neutral, gender-neutral and also caste-neutral," he said.

Allaying fears of members across party lines, including leader of opposition Arun Jaitley, of a repeat of 1991 when thousands of Kashmiri Pandits had to leave the Valley, the finance minister said, "We will not allow forced migration," he said.

Initiating the discussion, Jaitley said what happened in Kishtwar was more about the sovereignty of India rather than relationship between two communities. He said in the last few months, the situation had improved in the state but there had been recent reports of incursions and some developments in the hilly areas of Jammu region.

Jaitley reminded the government how during the Amarnath agitation and later during stone-pelting incidents in the Valley, the government had taken an all-party delegation to meet people to assuage their feelings. Taking potshot at chief minister Omar Abdullah, Jaitley said, "J&K is not the personal property of one family." Referring to the use of Section 144 to stop him, Jaitley asked, "What would happen if BJP government imposes same Section 144 against AICC leaders." He demanded investigation into the incident.

Renewable energy minister Farooq Abdullah reminded Jaitley that during the 2002 riots in Gujarat, politicians were not allowed entry and Army was not deployed for long. Karan Singh of Congress, whose family ruled Kashmir for long, said J&K was the most multi-racial, multi-geographic and multi-lingual state. He said there was underground tension in the Jammu region and a high-level probe was needed. He said, "J&K ki gaadi nahin chal rahi hai. Widows are wailing, children are wailing."

BSP chief Mayawati demanded an inquiry and asked how J&K's minister of state for home was in Kishtwar during the incident and yet nothing was done. She said FIR be lodged against him and the state government should be sacked.

JD(U)'s KC Tyagi, who was repeatedly disturbed by TDP MPs, said just like the mothers who lost their sons in Jammu there are 80,000 mothers in the Valley who have lost their children. Mohd Shafi of the National Conference blamed the BJP for disturbances in the Jammu region. He said just before the next general election BJP is talking of abrogating Article 370 and integrating the Valley with the rest of the country. He also asked who was responsible for putting stones in front of Muslim homes and mosques a week before Id-ul-Fitr.
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