Jammu remains shut to protest DODA killing
6 August 2001
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Jammu and its neighbouring townships observed a complete shutdown on Monday in protest against the killing of Hindu villagers in a series of attacks by unidentified gunmen in the mountainous Doda district last week. In the latest massacre, as many as 13 nomadic cattle- grazers were shot dead along the Shrotidhar pasture on Friday night. Eight people had been gunned down in the region last month. Shops and other businesses in Jammu, the winter capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the garrison town of Udhampur, Doda, Ranbirsingh Pora, Rajouri and Kathua remained closed for the day. Transport services stayed off the road as well. However, private vehicles did ply in most areas. At a couple of places in the city of Jammu, including New Plot, City Chowk and Kachi Chawni, agitated crowds took to the streets and burnt used car tyres to vent their anger. Kishtwar and neighbouring Bhaderwah townships continued to reel under curfew for the third consecutive day on Monday. Tension mounted at both these places, which have an almost equal Hindu-Muslim population, following the massacre at Shrotidhar. In Kishtwar and Atholi, the closest to Shrotidhar, some Muslim shops and houses were attacked by mobs before the imposition of security restrictions that heightened the tension. The call for the Jammu bandh had been issued by the BJP. Several regional outfits had endorsed it, accusing the security forces and the administration of failure in protecting the life and property of the minority community. The seven-member group of BJP legislators threatened to resign en masse unless the entire Doda district and Poonch and Rajouri, the twin districts bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, were declared disturbed areas. Meanwhile, Union minister of state for home I.D. Swami, accompanied by special secretary, home (Jammu and Kashmir affairs), Ashok Bhandari, flew in to Kishtwar and Atholi for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation in the hills where the gunmen have struck with complete impunity over the past few weeks, targeting mainly members of the minority Hindu community. At both these places the people were angry over the “apathy” of the authorities towards the members of the minority community. They were also agitated over the fact that home minister L.K. Advani chose not to visit them and confronted Mr Swami on this and other issues. The authorities have blamed the massacres on what they call are foreign mercenaries, belonging to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and other militant outfits, and their Kashmiri corroborators. But these outfits have strongly denied their involvement and in turn accused the Indian security and intelligence agencies of engineering the bloodshed “to defame our struggle for freedom and Islamic salvation.” The two- member team reviewed the security situation with senior state and security officials at the Jammu airport. The team will submit a report to Mr Advani on its return to New Delhi, official sources said. It was Mr Swami’s second visit to the region in less than 10 days. During his earlier visit to Kishtwar, soon after eight Hindus were killed by gunmen at three different places in the area, he had ordered stricter measures to prevent a reoccurrence of such bloody incidents. But then came the massacre of 13 people on Friday night, causing embarrassment to the Centre as well as the state government. The incidents, their aftermath and the overall security situation will be discussed at a specially convened meeting by the Union home minister in New Delhi on Wednesday. Chief minister Farooq Abdullah will also attend the meeting, the sources said.