VHP Sparks Communal Tensions In Rajouri
Tension in Rajouri
SRINAGAR: Amid fears of communal riots, the Army carried out a flag march in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri after the members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad torched a flag of the Islamic State with hand-written verses of the Holy Quran.
An indefinite curfew was clamped in the town Wednesday evening with the National Conference accusing the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led PDP-BJP coalition government of "engineering" the communal tensions in order to "divide" the state for "political gains".
The incident took place on Tuesday when a group of VHP activists torched the ISIS flag with Kalima-e-Tayeba written on it, sparking protests by Muslim community who demanded that the accused persons should be arrested for hurting their sentiments.
Curfew was soon clamped in the town but protesters defied restrictions and staged protests during which violent clashes were reported from many parts of the town. "Seven persons, all of them from Muslim community, were held for violence including stone-pelting at the forces during the protests," a senior government officer told The Citizen, wishing anonymity.
In a two-hour relaxation in curfew on Wednesday, dozens of Muslim youths shouting slogans against the government appeared at many places in Rajouri and demanded the arrest of the accused VHP activists.
However, protests turned violent in some places where agitated youths pelted stones at the forces after which the Army staged a flag march and the curfew was clamped indefinitely in the town.
"20 persons from the community have been taken into custody. Situation remains very tense in the town, but it is under control. We are watching the events very closely," DIG (Rajouri), AK Atri, said.
The administration had planned a meeting of elders from the two communities to defuse the tensions on Wednesday. However, the meeting couldn't be held after the violent clashes between Muslim youths and police.
Senior BJP leader and J&K's deputy chief minister, Nirmal Singh, has ruled out arresting the VHP activists, "As far as the setting afire the IS flags is concerned, it is a terrorist outfit symbol," he said. "Is it possible? Burning of the symbol of terrorists and anti-national elements is the work of nationalism."
"They (VHP activists) cannot be arrested. This is not possible, why should we arrest them? Why should they be arrested," he said.
Blaming the coalition government, the National Conference's chief spokesperson, Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, said the situation in Rajouri is a result of their "pre-planned motive to engineer the communal divide".
“VHP activists who are behind the whole conspiracy of fanning communal fire in Rajouri are moving around freely as the deputy chief minister himself has lauded their antics and given them a carte blanche. Nothing could be more tragic and inappropriate," Ruhullah said.
"Does the deputy chief minister not know that burning of any flag with Islamic scriptures is an act that would hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community? We expect a more nuanced understanding of religious studies, cultural facts and history from him. Such patronage to provocative elements by the highest echelons of the state government is not only unfortunate but also extremely dangerous,” he said.
In capital Srinagar, the independent legislator from Langate, Engineer Rashid, was taken into preventive custody on Wednesday when he tried to stage an anti-government protest on the busy Residency Road against the occurrences in Rajouri. Scores of JKLF activists, who demonstrated against the "divisive politics" of the coalition government, were met with force by J&K Police and stopped from holding a similar demonstration.
Hitting out at the chief minister, Ruhullah said: “What is even sadder is how the chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed continues to play second fiddle to the BJP and watches as a mute spectator as the right-wing party and the saffron brigade plant seeds of hatred in the state. PDP’s sell-out to BJP for the sake of power has come at a huge cost to the stability and safety of the state and its people,” he said.