State’s junior Home Minister Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo led the state government team to Gool that was at the peak of crisis. He spoke to RS Gull after his return. Excerpts from a detailed interview:
Sajad A Kichloo: It was terribly bad situation in Gool. There are two versions of the story. First one is what the people say. They say, a BSF party that is tasked to secure the railway track, barged into a seminary, beat the caretaker and allegedly desecrated the Holy Quran. As people knew of it, they were out and protested. The second version is that of the BSF. They say they intercepted a young man during the night and asked him why he was roaming around. Once he was freed, he involved the locals and it became an issue. What is the reality is subject matter of investigation. Whatever the investigations will found will be shared with the people.
KL: Between Tarawih and the Sehri, there is not much of time. But still thousands of people were in the village the next morning.
SAK: It was a huge gathering and we saw and interacted with it once we reached there. There were tens of thousands, DC and SP Ramban told us as well. The people actually had done a good mobilization during the night, talked to people in all the villages which had no information about it. They had also talked to some ministers including Ali Mohammad Sagar and their own lawmakers. The Imams had briefed their people in the mosques as well. There were various gathering at different places at different times but overall situation was that Gool was completely and totally disrupted.
KL: If the DC and the SP were on spot, why did not they manage the situation and prevented the flare-up?
SAK: They had done their best. They had convinced the people to disperse on the set terms and conditions. I do not know what the conditions were. But I presume, these could have been registration of an FIR against the BSF and getting the camp removed to some other place.
As the people had started dispersing, it was another huge procession that came from Upper Gool. They were highly emotional and not listening anything. As soon as they saw a gathering there, they resorted to stone pelting, according to district officials. It changed the situation altogether and immediately after there was firing.
As some of the people were hit, people ran helter-skelter. For around 15 minutes, nobody knew who is where and who is doing what. And nobody knew who is firing at whom. It was during this period that people started evacuating the injured.
KL: Even then, the situation could have been controlled?
SAK: Yes. And to be honest with them, DC and SP tried. After the firing stopped, they tried their level best to get people and talk and it was initiated. But most of the people said why they should talk, when they were fired upon already. So this did not materialize. It was at this point of time, that somebody set a rumour that it was DC who had ordered the firing on the people. This created a very difficult situation at a time when the DC was in the BSF camp requesting them not to open fire even if there is provocation. It was at this point that a mob started looking for DC and started towards the BSF camp. But I tell you, there is no truth in the allegation that DC had ordered firing.
KL: So when you reached the town, how you managed it?
SAK: It was terribly bad situation and we had to go directly to the mobs to be part of them and start interacting to bring an order in the town. They had their grievances. Finally, they came with the demands and there were many. We assessed the demands and finally agreed to what we could do. We had been empowered by the government to deliver decision on spot so that the situation is prevented from escalation.
KL: How is Gool now?
SAK: It is peaceful and all right. There has been loss of life and there are many being treated in various hospitals. But the people have assured they will maintain peaceful situation. We have admitted all their demands. They buried the dead only after we agreed to what they wanted. There are two parallel investigations being carried out, one which an ADG BSF is carrying out on the orders of the Home Minister of India. Another is that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has asked Divisional Commissioner Jammu to carry out. Once these investigations will be over, the action will follow.