J&K Round-Up: Ceasefire Violations Cause Evictions; Kathua Rape Communalisation Continues

BJP government is cracking down on dissent on one hand, and inciting communal tension on the other.

Image for representational purpose, courtesy: Indian Express

The state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to reel under tensions as ceasefire violations have escalated to an unprecedented level. Relations between the relatively peaceful communities of Gujjar Bakarwals and Hindus are also under strain with the continued polarisation of the Kathua rape case. 

Ceasefire violations continue, dissenters are being targeted
The LoC in Uri saw intense exchange of firing on Saturday causing hundreds of villagers to flee from their homes. The exchange of heavy artillery between India and Pakistan has not been seen in the last 15 years, after the 2003 ceasefire agreement. More than 2,500 people have already been displaced from their homes in Uri. 

Villagers of Silikote rushed out of their homes when the Pakistani army used the public address system to ask villagers to evacuate the village without “wasting any time”. The worst damage was seen in the twin villages of Silikote and Churanda, where five homes were completely destroyed after coming under shelling. Apart from these two, ten other border villages have been facing firing and shelling since February 23.

The year 2017 saw a spike in the number of ceasefire violations with 860 recorded incidents, up from 271 in 2016. This year, the pattern of escalated tensions is continuing with 134 violations until January 21 alone. 

The BJP government’s hardened stance is not applicable to external threats alone; dissent from within the national boundaries is also being treated harshly. 

An FIR was registered against border residents for criticising the BJP leadership for “abandoning” them at their time of need. Bansi Lal Sharma, SHO of Ramgarh, said , “We have registered an FIR under Section 124/A of the RPC (sedition charges) against unidentified persons for shouting objectionable slogans during the cremation of Suresh Kumar Choudhary (a shelling victim).” 

Although the FIR is against unidentified persons, it has been reported that the family of the victim is the real target as they were particularly vocal in voicing their dissent against BJP. 

Puneet, the victim’s son, said they were angry because of the lack of medical attention given to his father. Suresh had been seriously injured after Pakistan’s shelling at Kamore camp on January 19. “For 14 days, we kept shuttling between hospitals for better treatment, but the authorities failed to act. Instead of helping us, the authorities are trying to terrorise us by registering an FIR with sedition charges. Those present at my father’s cremation had not raised any anti-national slogan,” he said.

The family has an army background. Suresh had retired from the army as a Havaldar, and his elder son is also serving in Kashmir. 

Border residents have been expressing their discontent with the current government’s policy of escalated action against Pakistan, which has caused huge number of displacements and loss of livelihoods.  

PMO statement will cause further communalisation of the Kathua rape case
After the communally charged marches of Hindu Ekta Manch (HEM) in support of the two police officers accused of raping the minor girl in Kathua and the transfer of the case to CBI, Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State, has also made a statement supporting the transfer.

The rape of the minor girl has caused tensions between the Muslim Gujjar Bakarwal tribals and Hindus to flare up in Jammu. 

Initial investigations into the rape led to the arrest of a fifteen year old boy. However, the arrest was seen as a cover-up by the community and the family of the victim, who protested demanding a judicial investigation. 

Further investigations led to the arrest of Special Police Officers Deepak Khujaria and Surinder Kumar. This resulted in the Hindu Ekta Manch taking to the streets and demanding the case be transferred to CBI. 

Deepak Khujaria was part of the team that led the primary investigations into the case under which the fifteen year old was arrested. 

HEM is presided over by Vijay Kumar Sharma, a local BJP leader. After the HEM’s march supporting the rape accused, CM Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “Appalled by the marches & protests in defense of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua. Also horrified by their use of our national flag in these demonstrations, this is nothing short of desecration. The accused has been arrested & the law will follow its course.”

Responding to this tweet, Sharma said, “How can police deliver a credible investigation?” Jitendra Singh also accused the CM of making “judgemental remarks”. 

Members of the Gujjar Bakarwal community have said that the entire incident is an organised effort meant to instil fear into the tribe. Anwar Chaudhary, a Gujjar leader, said,  “But the communal divide that is being created over this crime is wrong. Hindus and the Gujjar-Bakarwal community have had good relations for generations. Gujars supply milk to all of Jammu. Everyone knows we are patriotic citizens.”

BJP support for the demand for the case to be transferred to CBI is a thinly veiled attempt of inciting further communal tension and supporting majoritarian sentiments in the area. The CBI is infamous for carrying out biased investigations and protecting those favoured by the ruling party.

Courtesy: Newsclick.in




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