Kishtwar riots: Gandhi Commission Report praises VDCs

Asif Iqbal Naik

JAMMU

The much debatable Justice R C Gandhi interim report on August 9 Kishtwar communal riots gives clean chit to former MoS Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo from all charges and praised VDCs.

The 171 page interim report of the commission is based on cross examination of 388 affidavits submitted by the public which include some key eye witnesses, beside on the statement and affidavits submitted by independent witnesses, such as 8 Duty Magistrates deployed on duty by the Deputy Commissioner, Kishtwar, 17 Sector Officers and 8 Zonal Officers deployed by the SP, Kishtwar in the town, the affidavit filed by ” the Commandant of the 8 RR who came in the city for imposition of curfew, affidavit of the Dy SP, Law & Order, the then SP, DIG Doda Range, affidavits of UGP, CID and MoS.

Justice Gandhi starts its report with the past history of Kishtwar District, its geography and other past related details pertain to Kishtwar District.

Justice Gandhi for convenience and taking into consideration the purpose of the filing of the affidavits by the Deponents classified these affidavits into various groups and categories which comprised in following groups.

(i) 59 deponents who were served but despite service did not appear before the
Commission for cross examination;

(ii) 64 deponents who, during cross examination, did not support the  deposition;

(iii) 15 deponents who were found not traceable during service of summons;

(iv) 2 deponents whose names and parentage was not correctly written in the affidavits;

(v) 3 persons, i.e. injured witness son, his father and one Constable;

(vi) 12 independent witnesses;

(vii) 3 eye witnesses of Kuleed chowk against Varinder Singh, PSO as per their depositions;

(viii) 48 deponents whose shops were damaged but they have not mentioned the loss in their affidavits and their affidavits are just like a Performa wherein their names have been written by hand;

(ix) 32 persons whose shops or material III the shops IS gutted and have
mentioned the loss in the affidavits;

(x) 67 deponents who have filed the affidavits on hearsay;

(xi) 36 deponents (Hindus) whose affidavits have appreciated the efforts of the MOS on Eid day;

(xii) 6 affidavits containing 7 paragraphs parrot-type except the names;

(xiii) 5 affidavits containing 6 paragraphs parrot-type except the names;

(xiv) 11 affidavits containing 6 paragraphs but parrot-type except the names mentioned therein;

(xv) 16 affidavits containing 7 paragraphs parrot- type again;

(xvi) 1 Affidavit rejected as the deponent has not signed it;

(xvii) 8 Affidavits of Govt. officers/officials.

While cross examining the affidavits Justice Gandhi found that the affidavits of categories from (i) to (iv) need not to be discussed here as it has no legal evidentiary value.

While cross examining the affidavits submitted in favour of Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo, MLA Kishtwar and Ex. MoS (Home & Industry), Justice Gandhi in his report stated that 36 Deponents examined by the Commission have deposed the manner specified herein, particularly the Affidavits filed by Rishi Ram slo Ram Nath rlo village
Palalai Tehsil Padder and Girdhari Lal slo Tota Ram rlo village Chitto, Padder appreciating the steps taken by the Minister to control the situation.

Both the deponents stated before the commission that the deponent being a respected citizen and well versed with the facts and circumstances of the matter is thus swooning the instant affidavit voluntarily with his free will, consent and without any influence and coercion.

They further stated that some vested elements are hell in bent in maligning the reputation of former Minister of State for Home and MLA Kishtwar Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo with ulterior and political motives by alleging that he is responsible for the said Communal violence and termed the smear campaign against him as politically motivated, as according to their statements Sajjad Kichloo is the popular political leader of the area having immense respect from both Hindu as well as Muslim Community and has obtained votes from both the communities in the last
two Assembly Elections.

They said that Kichloo’s popularity among the masses has irked the persons belonging to other Political parties and anti social elements who are behind the entire episode for their petty political gains who with their nefarious designs tries to create artificial wedge between the Hindu and Muslim Communities who have lived with peace and harmony from so many decades.

Deponent Rishi Ram stated before the Commission that the affidavit has been prepared in the court premises at Jammu, it was prepared by some advocate. He told the advocate that his affidavit be written to the extent that on 9th August, 2013, while the Eid Namaz was being offered, noise arose.

In this episode there is no hand of MOS Kichloo. As far as Girdhari Lal is concerned, his deposition is that on 9th August, 2013 he started from village at 5.30 and came to Kishtwar where he went to the Eidgah to wish the MOS and when there developed a noise, he straightway left for his village Battu, Padder. 14 Deponent namely, (1) Ramesh Kumar s/o Jodha Ram, (2) Ramesh Kumar Aryan s/o Gian Prakash Aryan, (3) Jatinder Kumar s/o Naib Chand Bhagat, (4) Ramesh Kumar s/o Mohan Lal, (5) Ranjit Singh s/o Lassu Ram, (6) Rajinder Kumar s/o Krishan Lal, (7) Hari Lal s/o Amar Chand, (8) Baban Singh s/o late Jodha Ram, (9) Ravi Kumar s/o late Gian Chand, (10) Ajit Kumar s/o Khushi Ram, (11) Bharat Bhushan s/o Mohan Lal, (12) Santosh
Kumar s/o Prem Chand, (13) Naresh Kumar s/o Diwan Chand and (14) Om Parkash s/o Hans Raj have filed their affidavits which are verbatim the same.

These deponents before the Commission have either not supported the affidavit or has stated that the averments of the affidavit are not based on their personal knowledge the averments have been written as heard from the people, i.e. on hearsay, the police personnel came to the deponent and got the affidavit signed. 5 Deponents namely, (1) Rakesh Kumar s/o Jia Lal, (2) Jugal Kishore s/o Amar Chand, (3) Bal Krishan s/o Amar Chand, (4) Des Raj Bhagat s/o Sona Ram&(5) Manoj Parihar s/o Hans Raj have filed the affidavits which are verbatim the same.

In their affidavits they stated that the situation which arises on 9th Aug. 2013 is condemned by all society of Kishtwar and added that there are black sheep in both communities who tried to create fuss.

They further stated that the role of MLA Kishtwar is appreciated by both the communities who tried his best to control the situation & cool down the atmosphere, beside also stated that the MLA Kishtwar Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo is a man of Secular Character & is known for the Services of developmental activities of Kishtwar District. All these deponents during cross examination before the Commission has not supported the contents of the affidavit.

2 Deponents namely,(1) Ajay Kumar Badyal s/o Girdhari Lal Badyal & Suresh Kumar s/o Jia Lal have also filed their affidavits  along with 3 other  Deponents namely, (1) Ajit Kumar s/o Manak Chand, (2) Bharat Singh s/o Manshadi Ram & (3) Piare Lal s/o Dhuni Lal have filed the affidavits which are also verbatim the same. These deponents before the Commission have stated that they have no personal knowledge as to what is written in the affidavit, 10 affidavits of (1)Arjun Sen s/o Homi Lal Sen, (2) Jagdish Raj Parihar s/o Deva Nath, (3) Kaka·Ram s/o Dina Nath,~(4) Ashok Kumar s/o Bodh Raj, (5) Karan Singh s/o Kaka Ram, (6) Ramesh Kumar s/o Munshi Ram, (7) Surinder Singh s/o Lassu Ram, (8) Saroop Chand Parihar s/o Nand Lal Parihar, (9) Inderjeet Singh Sen s/o Hans Raj Sen & (10) Rajinder Kumar s/o Nihal Chand are by and large, the same but not parrot type. Some affidavits are having 4 paras and some are of 5 paras, though words here and there are different but the sum and substance is the same. These deponents have also stated before the Commission that they have no personal knowledge, their affidavit is based on hearsay, and some have not supported the contents of the affidavit at all.

Five deponents have also submitted their affidavits against administration  Deponents namely (1) Ramesh Kotwal s/o Thakur Dass, (2) Akshay Sharma s/o Swamiraj Sharma, (3) Daulat Ram s/o Pran Nath, (4) Rattandeep s/o Munshi Ram &(5) Sahil Sharma s/o Joginder Mahajan have filed the affidavits containing 6 paras. Their deposition contained in the affidavit is against the processionists, the District Administration and the then MOS (Home).

In their affidavits, they stated that for the first time procession came from Villages Hullar, Bandena, Berwar, Bonjwar on 9th of August 2013. They further stated that the people of said procession were raising anti national slogarts, they were’ having iron rods, tiffins, gun- powders and other explosive material in their hand and added that the body language of the processionists was clear that they were mood of provoke the national forces and within minutes they turned furious and started to pelt stones, throw gun powders in the shop and set ablaze 98 shops, hotels.

They also blame that these anti national element entered in the houses of Hindu’s and assaulted even the ladies; termed the event as well planned conspiracy of anti national element. They further blame that processionists also looted the gun house of family members of State Home Minister Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo and in his support quoted the statement Chief Minister Omar Abdullah given to BCC radio in which he said that the gun house has been looted on 8th Aug 2013 i.e. before the riots of 9th August 20134 and supported investigation of this incident.

They stated that neither the District Magistrate nor the Superintendent of Police, Kishtwar even nor the State Home Minister intervened to control the mob, who were approached by the people and alleged that both the officers were restricted by the MOS for taking any action against the anti national elements.

On the cross examination before the Commission the deponents have stated that 2-3 boys came, they got signed the affidavit from them and took it back with them. Ramesh Kotwal s/o late Thakur Dass states that while he was sitting on the shop at Kuleed Chowk, the procession of Nimazis passed in front of the shop of the deponent and added that they were raising slogans about “Afzal Guru” and about Indian Force.

He stated that the processionists entered the gate of the house and was saved by SSB personnel along with other members of the family and the tenants also and added that thereafter he went to his house and came back after the curfew was lifted, and states that besides this he has no knowledge about the affidavit’ as to what is written in the affidavit.

Sahil Mahajan before the Commission has stated that his cloth shop is situated at Shaheed road. He was at home, his friend told him on telephone that rioters have come in the bazaar, and they are looting and burning the- shops. Upon this he immediately went to his shop, he saw rioters armed with lathis and sticks. Some of them had wrapped their faces with cloth so that they could not be identified. His shop was looted and burnt. The rioters were also having some small tins in their hands containing some substance.

They were sloganeering stating “Bharat Ragro, Bharat Ragro, Hum Kya Chahtay Hain Azadi”, but on cross examination he has not supported the deposition contained in the affidavit. Susheel Mahajan has stated before the Commission that a large procession of rioters came burning and damaging the shops. The deponent was unloading the material of Haldi Ram products which had brought in a truck from Jammu. In the meantime the protestors and rioters reached to the shop.

He approached the Muslim boys of the MohalIa, they intervened, they stood behind him and did not permit the rioters to damage either his shop or the goods. He is critical of the administration and has stated that had the administration made efforts to save the bazaar from burning it could not have burnt. The police and the administration was silent spectator. He also did not support the deposition before the commission. Surinder Gupta, deponent has stated that he came to the shop when came to know that the shops are being burnt in the bazaar. He saw his shop burning by the rioters and naqabposh’. Police was also there. So far as the affidavit is concerned, he has stated that his affidavit has been written by local advocate, He was shown his affidavit by the Commission and on reading it he said that has not asked to write such an affidavit and it has not been written on his instructions. He has not supported the contents of the affidavit.

Chanderjeet s/o Jia Lal, deponent has stated that affidavit has not been written according to his instructions, there were some boys who brought the affidavit duly drafted and got his signatures on the affidavit & took the affidavit back.

11 Deponents namely, (1) Kashmiri Lal slo Prem Nath, (2) Bharat  Bhushan slo Hukam Chand, (3) Ved Parkash Gupta slo Ram Chand, (4) Prabhat Chand slo Milap Chand, (5) Suresh Chand Gupta slo Dhuni Chand

Gupta, (6) Kuldeep Kumar slo Krishan Lal, (7) Anoop Kumar Sharma slo Shanti Parkash Sharma, (8) Ravinder Kumar son of Tarlok Nath, (9) Yogesh Sharma slo Jia Dutt Sharma, (10) Rajinder Singh slo Paras Ram & Karan Mahajan slo Sat Parkash Gupta have filed their affidavits containing 6 paragraphs against the administration and the Minister.

First five deponents have not supported the affidavits before the Commission and stated that- these affidavits were brought before them duly written and their signatures were got on the affidavits and the affidavits were retained by those persons who got the signatures of the deponents on the affidavits.

Anoop Kumar Sharma, deponent has stated that he came to see the shop after 3-4 days, the shop was quite intact. Many other shops in the bazaar were burnt. The shopkeepers of the bazaar had a meeting and decided that on 22nd October, 2013 all the shopkeepers will go to the court and prepare the affidavits to be submitted to the Commission. He went to the court, somebody presented this affidavit before him and asked him to sigh and he signed it. He also stated before the commission that he has no knowledge as to what is written in the affidavit.

Yogesh Sharma also stated before the commission that all the shopkeepers had a meeting and decided to prepare the affidavits on 22nd October, 2013. He has further stated that while he was standing at the shop at that time an
announcement was heard which came from a mosque stating that they have been attacked and all the people having their weapons come out in the bazaar and added that the police did not interfere or prevented the rioters till evening and till 7 pm when military had flag march and imposed the curfew.

There are 67 affidavits of those persons who are not witness to the occurrence at Kuleed chowk and have deposed with regard to the occurrence which took place at Kuleed chowk between the namazi processionists coming from Hullar-Kuleed side and a PSO in police uniform came riding on the motor cycle &drove into the procession and caused injury to some persons. They have stated that this incident was brought to their notice by some persons. This incident is the cause of the initial occurrence which escalated and spread to the town and other places.

These affidavits are all of hearsay evidence and verbatim the same with addition or deletion of one or two lines here and there. These affidavits are in the handwriting of 3 persons attested by the same Notary. 32 affidavits are of those persons whose shops, goods in the shops, buildings, hotels, restaurants or vehicles etc have been damaged and burnt. They have filed their claims before the Dy Commissioner.

They deserve to be paid the compensation as per the policy of the Government. Some of the deponents have not filed their claims before the Dy Commissioner but have stated that they could not complete the formalities required for claiming compensation. They have been advised by the Commission to collect the evidence and prefer their claim so that the Committee constituted by the Government for scrutiny, examination and sanction of the claims, could examine, sanction & pay to the claimant.

 Some of the claimants have stated that the Committee has examined their claims and paid the compensation to them. The Commission shall make its observations with regard to the payment of claims to the people in the [mal report of the Commission].

 48 affidavits are of those persons whose shops, goods in the shops or the houses have been burnt. Some of them have stated that their vehicles have also been burnt. They have filed their claims before the Dy. Commissioner, Kishtwar.

These affidavits are stereo- type and written on a proforma of affidavit. They have not bothered to mention in their affidavits the loss caused to them. It appears that somebody has formed the affidavits and distributed to them and they after signing it, filed before the Commission without bothering to go through the contents of the affidavits, otherwise a person who is affected because of burning of the shop or the damage of the goods, has to ‘seek a claim, is expected not to disclose to the Commission the quantum of the loss suffered by him.

There is another deponent Kunj Lal s/o Tara Chand r/o Brahman Mohalla, Kishtwar. He has filed his affidavit that his house is rented out to the Education Department wherein they have kept their office of the Chief Education Officer, Kishtwar. He stated that this house is situated adjacent to the house of Kichloo and added that his house has been burnt by the rioters & workers of Kichloo.

 Therefore, he has leveled allegations against Kichloo, the then MOS.

He in his affidavit stated that the deponent is the owner in possession of a plot bearing Khasra No. 3160 measuring 02 kanals situated adjacent to Punjab National Bank Bus Stand Kishtwar wherein the deponent has constructed three stories building and some shops as well. Unfortunately, this plot/structures situated adjacent to the house of Ex.MOS Home Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo, MLA Kishtwar who from the very beginning had an eye on the said property of the deponent and, made several unsuccessful attempts to grab the said plot.

The deponent’s above said property was targeted on the fateful day of 09-08-2013 and added that the said building was gutted in fire by the party workers of said MLA who directed his workers and goons to attack the deponent’s property. They also burnt the parked vehicle Maruti Car of deponent’s son.

When the deponent along with his son Suresh Kumar and grandson, namely Sahil reached to save their property from being burnt and damaged, they all were attacked and beaten up mercilessly and when asked why their property is being burnt, all the goons/workers shouted that face the consequences since their leader Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo could not get the property and they further declared that deponent’s property was their target and they were instructed by their leader to do so.

The deponent tried his level best to register FIR of the aforesaid incident and even showed photographs to the Police in which the miscreants are clearly identifiable but till date no FIR has been registered against them and they are roaming freely.

While being summoned by the commission and his statement was recorded by the Commission to test the veracity of the deposition, he was asked by the Commission a particular question with regard to his deposition contained in Para.

Of the affidavit wherein he stated that he showed the photograph to the police in which the miscreants are clearly identifiable, but till date no FIR has been registered against them. He stated that it is wrongly stated in the affidavit and stated that no photographs were taken or shown to the police.

He stated that he cannot say definitely but he doubts the involvement of Mr. Kichloo the reason therefore is that he once asked him to sell the plot to him. He further stated that what is written in Para 1 of the affidavit that has not been written on his instructions because he cannot say who were the persons who have burnt his house as they were large in number.

Commission stated that this witness has made an attempt to malign the ex.MOS but has not withstood the veracity of his deposition. He has not been able to support the affidavit and has, rather honestly stated that some paras of the affidavit are wrongly written and not written on his instructions. The commission stated that Kunj Lal affidavit has no creditworthy evidence for treating it a legal evidentiary value for involvement of the Ex. MOS.

Shubh Dev Sharma slo Pt. Tara Chand, rlo Kishtwar has also filed an affidavit and appeared before the Commission and stated that at about 10 he was at Kuleed chowk on Eid day. He heard the sound of slogans and saw that the Muslim community people came in a procession from Hullar-Kuleed side and when reached near Kuleed chowk, SSB, CRPF Camp, he saw Varinder Singh, motor Cyclist droving his motor cycle on his right side and added that when he (Varinder Singh) reached near, some people jumped on him.

The SSB personnel standing there intervened and saved him. He saw at that time the processionists putting the shops on fire and burning vehicles standing there. He went towards home fearing danger to his life. While he reached to the dak bungalow in the way he saw the shops burning in the bazaar & people looting the shops. Those who were looting the shops, they had covered their faces with cloth, nobody was preventing them. He cannot tell whether police was there or not. He went to his home via Malik market.

He met to the D.C. and the Tehsildar and requested them to contain the situation and impose curfew and added that DC did not agree. Commission in his finding stated that Subhdev witness, though has filed the affidavit and stated to be the eye witness, his statement has some corroboration with the statement of soldier of SSB who intervened at Kuleed chowk at the time of the initial occurrence between the motor cyclist and the processionsts.

So far as Kuleed chowk is concerned, his statement that at the same time processionists put the shops and vehicles on fire, is not and trust worthy when corroborated with other evidence as the statements of the other persons do state that some group of processionists went to Idgah and some people from Idgah also came with them via Kuleed chowk, it is at this point of time that the shops and vehicles were burnt and not the way deponent has stated.

Commission during the whole exercise also questioned the former Deputy Commissioner Saleem Mohammed Chowdhary, former SP Kishtwar Dr. Sunil Gupta, DIG Ashkoor Wani and found many flaws in their statements and have passed some worst kind of references against them in his report. The commission is still examining the timing of the arrival of the army in the town and implementation of the curfew.

Though the District Administration claims that they have fax the requisition to army commander by 11.35 AM and also produce the copy of recipient of the fax automatically delivered by the fax machine.

The officers of the administration though tries to put blame on delayed arrival of the army, but on the bases of the ground evidence, army (17 RR) started the process of clearance of the mob from roads within half an hour after receiving requisition from administration and by 1.30 PM, the army team lead by Commanding Officer 17 RR rescued the Deputy Commission Kishtwar from a house adjacent to Dak Banglow Kishtwar where he was trapped along with MOS Home Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo.

While exonerating Kichloo and fixing responsibilities on administration and police, Justice Gandhi taking into consideration the evidence available on record which has been mentioned in the report and the observations made by the Commission on the basis of their statements, it clearly establishes that there is prima-facie sufficient material on record in the form of evidence to prima-facie observe as under :-

(i) that there is sufficient evidence on record to hold Mr. Mohd. Saleem, IAS the then Dy. Commissioner, Kishtwar responsible for his negligent and irresponsible acts, conduct and behavior which resulted into the failure of the law & order machinery causing loss to the life and property in the District.

(ii) that there is sufficient evidence on record for holding inquiry into the conduct of 4 Magistrates, namely Majid Jehangir and Rajesh Thakur, Naib Tehsildars, Ali Imran and Farooq Ahmed Ganai, Lecturers of Education Department for dereliction of duty.

(iii) that the Commission shall propose and make recommendation  with regard to the nature of enquiry to be conducted against the above said officers in its Final Report.

(iv) that the Commission also on the basis of the available evidence before the Commission; observe that no evidence against Mr. Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo, MLA, Ex. MOS for his involvement, at any level, though he was in the town on that day, is found by the Commission during the course of inquiry.

(v) that on the basis of evidence on record it is observed that there is a resentment among the people against some officers of the Police department and want their transfer. The people feel that they are being subjected to committed governance. In a popular government the people should feel that the governance is people-friendly in a democratic set up.

(vi) that there is also evidence on record that the VDCs are doing good job as assigned to them. The propaganda against the VDCs is being spread by the people who believe in radicalism. It has come in the evidence that in case VDCs are disbanded it will bring an era of militancy again in the District and will land the district to a situation of “Land of Massacres” as known and called earlier during the militancy days.

The other reason for propaganda against the VDCs is that there is less number of Muslim community people in the VDCs. When VDCs were framed at that time the deserving persons did not volunteer to be members of the VDCs because of the fear of the militants and threat to their life by the militants but now the situation on ground has much improved.

The Government should consider the ex-army personnel and Ex. Police personnel to engage them as members of the VDC without disturbing the existing VDCs so that the false propaganda against the VDCs is taken care of and Participation of the people is exhibited.

Among the four duty magistrates, two stated that no violence took place inside Chowghan ground and even shows their ignorance about the death of any person inside the chowghan ground, while two other duty magistrates stated that after seeing the violence, both left the venue and hide inside a private school building and a nearby house. During his cross examination Ex. SHO Kishtwar also fails to provide actual details about the death of one Bashir ahmed Moochi.

Police has also failed to present the site map and location from where the said dead body was recovered. Though the SHO in his statement confirm that he has recovered the body of the deceased from inside chowghan ground.

When senior government functionaries were approached, they refuse to comment on the report and added that same is being examined and the action if any will be decided only after the arrival of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who is presently outside state on personal visit.

Commandment SSB was also cross examined by the commission with regard to the burning of Amar Market wherein the SSB Officer stated that they have no order to move outside the bunker. He stated that in case any Jawan leave the bunker without any permission, under law in case the Jawan was found guilty, he is liable to be punished up to the term of 14 years. Commission has also exonerated former Tehsildar Kishtwar Indeerjeet Parihar and Naib Tehsildar Arun Sharma from charges of negligence and dereliction of duty.

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