Writes Mr. Rahul Pandita on OpenTheMagazine (15th August 2013) “About ten days before violence broke out in Kishtwar, Jammu & Kashmir, a news item that appeared in a Valley publication reported the presence of suspicious masked men with weapons in this town and the adjoining Doda district who reportedly came knocking at the doors of Muslim houses during Ramzan and terrorised them. Though local police officers found these to be a hoax…. It came to naught.”
Mr Pandita hides the fact that it was not valley based newspapers but a prominent Jammu based newspaper (who is known to write against Kashmir and separatists) that first published the news of “After quake, ‘masked men’ create terror in Doda’ [Early Times 05/08/2013] (Kishtwar and Doda are different places with almost similar geographic and population mix). The paper clearly mentioned that people not only presented proof of these attacks but also had initiated own vigil in the absence of any police help.
So Mr. Pandita’s claim that the ‘masked men’ theory was started to spark Kishtwar violence falls flat, when this news came first from Poonch, weeks before the Kishtwar incident had even happened. In fact similar reports had been received from Kathua, Ramban and Udhampur Districts (where Hindu population is far greater than the Muslims population). What reason does Pandita give to such reports from Hindu dominated districts then?
Writes Pandita “On 7 August, two days before the riots in Kishtwar, the Valley-based separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani claimed during a prayer meeting that Muslims in the state’s Jammu region were being threatened. He asked people to join protests against Village Defence Committees (VDCs).”
Pandita again hides the fact that it was not SAS Geelnai who called for disbanding the VDC but also many pro Delhi parties in Kashmir including Senior NC leader and MP Dr Mehboob Beg and PDP spokesman Nayeem Akhtar, when a minor Muslim girl had been gang raped by VDC members in Kishtwar. During the intervening night of 24th and 25th July, a minor muslim girl was abducted and gang-raped by four youth in Bhatkot village of Kishtwar. The four youth (of whom Ranjeet Singh and Sanjeet Kumar were later arrested) not only were affiliated with the notorious VDC’s but the VDC’s also prevented their arrests at gun point, forcing the aggrieved Muslims to protest. Since Mr. Pandits does not consider raping Muslims a crime hence he chooses not to mention such crimes by Hindu VDC members against Muslims there as the sparks that ignited later incidents. In yet another incident on July 29, a 16-year old Shamim Ahmed was murdered by members of VDC’s (Village Defense Committee) at neighboring Doda. But even that crime and provocation is hidden by Pandita. What Mr Pandits specializes in is hiding the facts and presenting views to suit his saffron agenda.
“On the same day as Geelani’s exhortation, posters of Afzal Guru, hanged in February this year after being convicted in the December 2001 Parliament attack case, and militant leader Maqbool Butt, hanged in 1984 on charges of murder, appeared in Kishtwar with messages written in Urdu of ‘Jihad through holy war.’ Mr. Pandita often mentions his (unknown) ‘police sources’ in his statements. Why then did he miss the statement of Kishtwar police officials that “The allegations of pasting posters of Mohammad Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat in Kishtwar district by Muslims were also ruled out by the police.” “ “We have not seen any posters pasted in the district. The allegations are completely false and baseless,” said a senior police official,” Pandita not only aims at hiding the facts here but also tries to misrepresent the truth to suit his own anti Muslim agenda.
Pandita weaves stories by saying “At about 9.30 am, a separate procession of around 1,000 people from the villages of Pushi, Hullar, Bandarna and Sangrambatta descended upon Kishtwar. These people were armed with guns and petrol canisters, and had Pakistani flags. As they passed through a Hindu locality called Kuleed, people in the procession started shouting anti-India and pro-Pakistan and pro-Aazadi slogans. The mob was confronted by Hindus who asked them to desist from such behaviour. In the meantime, those praying at the Chowgan ground also reached the spot.”
Now compare his statements with these reported facts “A week before on July 29, a 16-year-old youth of neighbouring district Doda was killed allegedly by members of a Village Defence Committee (VDC). Prior to that a teenage girl of Kuntwara, Kishtwar, was kidnapped and raped by several influential persons allegedly backed and protected by the VDC. In several places in the erstwhile Doda district, particularly Kishtwar, VDC members had reportedly resorted to violence. Since June at many places in Doda-Kistwar region masked men were reportedly terrorising people and gangs roaming in the streets were reported to be pelting stones on houses during Ramadhan nights. Kishtwar police on August 1 had shot off a notice to the VDC members warning them “not to resort to unnecessary firing which can invite legal consequences for them.” “According to eyewitnesses, a procession of 500 persons from Hullar village was proceeding towards Chowgan prayer ground in Kishtwar town. “When we reached Kulland, a motorcyclist crashed through the procession,” said Omar Farooq, who was part of the procession. Farooq, who is a college lecturer, said, “The motorcyclist seemed to be under the influence of alcohol as he and the pillion rider were reeking of liquor. This infuriated the procession members and led to a scuffle between the two groups.” “Within moments people from the neighbourhood joined in and resorted to brick batting upon the procession. The riots had broken out.” (DailyPost.In Sunday 18th August 2013). Same reports have been corroborated by other media as well, among others India Today ‘The Kishtwar Cauldron’ 16th August, 2013, EuroAsiaReview ‘Kishtwar Riots and Surrender Before Divisive Forces’ 14th August, 2013.
Even the hate guru of Mr. Pandita, Praveen Swamy reports that “From the accounts of local residents and police investigators, there’s little dispute about just what happened in Kishtwar that day. That morning, hundreds of worshippers marched through Kuldeed chowk, to join an Eid prayer gathering of over 20,000 people at the sprawling Chowgan maidaan. Varinder Kumar, a police officer assigned as a bodyguard to local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sunil Sharma, was driving the other way. He pressed his horn once too often, trying to push past the crowd, and ended up being slapped around. Incencesed, Kumar rounded up some young Hindu friends from one corner of the neighbourhood, who began throwing stones at his attackers”
The local BJP leader that Pandita quotes to justify his report is the same person who has been accused of orchestrating these riots in the first place. In fact the same BJP leader Sunil Kumar has been evading arrest since 2008 in a rioting and murder case registered against him (FIR 133/2008). He is accused of involvement in a grenade blast in Kishtwar, which killed two Muslims in the area and incited further violence. Investigations had revealed that BJP leader Sunil Kumar landed in Kishtwar from his home village Hatta and organized the blast. He has been known to evade arrest owing to his political clout and closeness to some officers and journalists. Neither does Rahul Pandita mention earlier cases against this BJP leader nor does he say anything about his involvement in the present riots. Some people rather believe that Rahul Pandita being close to this BJP leader, has also been instrumental in saving him from arrest in earlier terror, murder and rioting cases. Here too the cause of BJP comes first for Pandita than the fairness of his journalism.
Pandita says “While injured Muslims were treated at the district hospital, injured Hindus were taken to Army treatment facilities and hospitals elsewhere.” Not once does Pandita mention how VDC gangs did not allow ambulances in Muslim areas to take the critically injured for treatment, threatening to fire at the ambulances.In fact it has been reported that “(Hindu gangs) gathered around the ambulance and poured petrol over it and attempted to set it afire”
Mr. Pandita nowhere mentions how VDC members chased “Lassa son Amadu Khandey resident of Kijayae Padder was allegedly kidnapped by the rioters last night from police station Gulabgard, where he had reportedly taken shelter” and killed him infornt of the police. The police did not act against the Hindu VDC members. Nor will Pandita mention how Hindu VDC rioters “slit the abdomen and head of Bashir Ahmed Mochi and then set him on fire”
There were reports that “Intelligence agencies have told the government that Bajrang Dal, an affiliate of Sangh Parivar, was involved in stoking communal violence in Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir. “ Later understandably the Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami (an old Kashmir hand) ““I don’t any have knowledge about such report. I have not received any such report till last evening,”. This was clearly seen as a move by the central government to diffuse the situation that would again bring Hindu communal elements to fore in Jammu and Kishtwar so that things cool down for the present. Otherwise not only were the earlier reports of Intelligence agencies citing the involvement of saffron terrorists in Kishwtar genuine, there had been earlier reports too suggesting that saffron extremists were planning to fuel sectarian conflict there.
Pandita does not mention how in Jammu “Top cop gave rioters free hand against Muslims, locals alleged”.
Nor does Pandita mention how Hindu mobs indulged in arson and loot in Jammu against Muslims
Mr. Panditas personal hate for Muslims, especially Kashmiris always comes to the fore in his journalist profession, which he uses only to settle personal scores. Before asking others to explain, Pandita has a lot of explaining to do about his biased reporting and putting his Muslim hate before any truth. Such haters only cheer when Muslims are raped and killed. Shame on you.
May also read Village Defence Committees and Kishtwar Trail