Politics and practice of communal massacres in Jammu and Kashmir
1 May 2006
New Delhi: With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh scheduled to meet with All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Wednesday, and then hold a round-table conference involving all major political parties, the motives underpinning Sunday's massacres in Jammu are evident: terrorist groups, notably the Lashkar-e-Taiba, have long used death as an instrument to derail efforts towards détente. In August 2000, a month after the pro-dialogue Hizb ul- Mujahideen commander, Abdul Majid Dar, declared a unilateral ceasefire, cadre from his organisation and the Lashkar carried out a series of communal massacres in an effort to sabotage movement towards peace. In less than 48 hours, starting with the massacre of 30 pilgrims near the shrine of Amarnath, six strikes were carried out in the districts of Anantnag, Doda and Kupwara. However, communal massacres long predate peace efforts in Jammu and Kashmir. After targeting prominent members of the State's Pandit minority for assassination and intimidation in the first phase of jihadi violence, terrorists began executing large-scale killings from August 1993, when 13 Hindus were massacred at Sarthal in Doda. Three years later, 16 Hindus were again executed in the Doda village of Barshalla. From 1998, communal massacres gathered momentum and in scale. In 1998, 132 civilians died in six massacres conducted across the State and in adjoining Himachal Pradesh. After a lull in 1999, the massacres resumed in 2000. In 2001, 108 people were killed in 11 major incidents, while 83 people were killed in five incidents in 2002. Most of these killings targeted desperately poor communities in the State's more remote mountain regions. Although the scale of the communal terror strikes has diminished since 2002, attacks have taken place at regular intervals. In October, a unit of the Hizb ul- Mujahideen-Pir Panjal Regiment targeted two hamlets in Budhal's Rajouri area. While women in the village were ordered to prepare food for the terrorists, 11 Hindu men aged between 18 and 57 had their throats slit one by one. One motivation for this gruesome campaign was to bring about large-scale migrations of Hindus from Muslim-majority areas north of the Chenab river — and provoke communal attacks which would lead to a Muslim exodus. Islamist groups hope such massacres will help realise a sundering of Jammu and Kashmir along ethnic-religious lines, replicating the communal logic on which the Partition of India was based. Partition-based ideas have emanated, in recent years, from the United States-based Kashmir Study Group and Pakistan's back-channel negotiator during the Kargil war, Niaz Naik. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's recent calls for a division of Jammu and Kashmir into seven separate provinces, although couched in language based on geography rather than religion, would have much same effect if implemented. Notably, though, Muslim villagers opposed to Islamist terror groups have also faced regular assault and mass killings. In 2001, for example, 15 Muslim villagers, including seven children, were executed at the village of Kot Charwal in Rajouri for having set up a self-defence group to keep Islamist terrorists out of the area. In January, Rashid Begum and two members of her family were killed in Arnas for campaigning against the Hizb. Despite the high media impact of communal killings of Hindus, internal Union Home Ministry data exclusively obtained by The Hindu makes it clear that Muslims are the principal victims of the jihad Islamist groups are fighting in their name. Last year, for example, just 54 of the 489 civilians killed by terrorists were Hindu. In most years since 1989, less than 15 per cent of overall civilian fatalities have been Hindu. Only in 1990 did that figure cross 20 per cent.