Asif Iqbal Naik
It was August 9, 2013 when people of Kishtwar were celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr and people from both the communities were greeting each other on this occasion while people were on way to Eidgah Kishtwar for offering the congregational Eid prayers at historical Chowghan ground situated in the heartland of Kishtwar town.
It was about 9:30 AM in the morning- over 15000 people had assembled for offering the Eid prayers and all of sudden at around 9:50 AM- there was hue and cry started at an extreme end of the Chowgan ground towards adjoining Kuleed village and people did not know what had happened.
All of a sudden mobile phones started ringing and it came to know that some people had a fight after a motorcyclist allegedly hit a person who was part of a religious procession coming from adjoining villages of Hullar and Bandrena towards Chowgan ground and the people who were part of the religious procession had beaten him who allegedly after being beaten goes to the nearby village and brought some youths for his help and in the meantime both the parties started pelting stones on each other.
As soon as the incident took place, the police though rushed to the spot – but failed to control the situation that later took an ugly turn and in next half an hour.
The “miscreants” started burning the properties of each other as a result of which hundreds of shops were burnt down along with the government property and private property worth Crores in free for all situation till the army was called in to impose curfew.
Three persons Arvind Raj Baghat, Bashir Ahmed Moochi of Kishtwar and Lassa Khanday of Padder lost their lives while several others were injured forcing the authorities to impose curfew in many areas of Jammu Division.
After massive protest in the parliament and on streets by the BJP which was in opposition, state Home Minister Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo who was also a local MLA from Kishtwar resigned and Omar Abdullah led government also announced a one-man Justice Gandhi Commission to probe the circumstances that led to Kishtwar communal riots.
Police also registered over a dozen FIRs in which hundreds of people from both the communities were nominated and arrested, but many of them believed to be innocents including those people were booked “who were even not said to be present in Kishtwar town when the riots took place”.
Among the people arrested by police in connection with the riots and killings is Adil Aslam Waza who was in jail since last nearly 32 months along with few other youths from both the communities. Adil Waza, who was doing a private job, had only come home couple of days ago before he was implicated in the murder case.
A soft spoken Adil Waza after seeing people pelting stones on each other near his home, immediately returned without going to Eidgah for prayers.
As Kishtwar was burning and smoke was coming out from the homes and shops, Adil helped two non-Muslim women of Doda known to his family and was trapped in the riots to reach home by accompanying them while on return – police summoned him for questioning.
Not knowing what was waiting for him, Adil reached the police station and continued visiting it for few days – though police allowed him to go home all these times – he was finally booked in murder case and is in jail since then.
During the course of the trail, all the witnesses turned hostile and told the court that Adil and other persons arrested in the case were not part of the riots.
The council of the victims who were in jail are now planning to apply for the bail but they wanted that police officials who were summoned by the court will appear in the court at first, but due to prevailing law and order situation, the police officials who were part of the investigation failed to appear in the court.
Many accused who were booked for murder and rioting are roaming free despite the fact that local courts had issued warrants against them under 512 Cr PC and declared them absconder.
The Justice Gandhi Commission which had been appointed to probe Kishtwar riots after four months of inquiry gave clean chit to Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo in his initial report and it was on this basis that Omar Abdullah re-inducted Kichloo in his council of ministers and restored all portfolios to him including MoS Home.
Justice Gandhi also recommended series of suggestions to the government with regard to grievances of the victims whose business and properties were damaged in these riots.
Even though promises made to business community and the victims, the successive governments have failed to compensate them properly in accordance to the losses they suffered.
Even though Justice Gandhi submitted his report to the government over a year ago, but what is mentioned and recommended in the report has not been made officially public by the government.
However, as per the reports, Gandhi Commission has reversed its pervious decision of giving clean chit to Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo, besides had also implicated senior police officials and officials of the administration which according to the people is a politically motivated move and accused Justice Gandhi of changing the report at “behest of the interference of the ruling party BJP”, the charge denied by the Justice Gandhi.
Many people including the family members of those booked for riot cases demand reinvestigation of the cases so that real culprits who were involved in instigating the riots could be booked and punished in accordance to law of the land.
They added that many culprits were though clearly visible on videos, but police have never summoned them or named them in any FIR, which they see as injustice to those who were booked falsely by the Special Investigation Team constituted by the DGP to investigate the riots related cases.