Ministers visit burning Pattan but no interface with people
Inflammatory speeches made for Police audience amid ‘curfew’ in 30 villages
AHMED ALI FAYYAZ
SRINAGAR, Feb 26: Three of the Cabinet Ministers and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s Advisor, Mubarak Gul, today visited a spot in the disturbed Pattan area but they returned to the Capital city without arranging any interaction with representatives of the two warring sects. Notwithstanding the visit of senior government functionaries, at least two residential houses were ransacked and set on fire and speakers made inflammatory speeches at a mosque amid curfew in nearly 30 villages in Pattan-Magam belt.
On Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s direction, Minister of Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Minister of Agriculture, Ghulam Hassan Mir, Minister of Animal Husbandry, Aga Ruhullah, and Chief Minister’s Advisor, Mubarak Gul, today visited the flashpoint between Kongamdara and Ahmedpora villages and received an official briefing of the sequence of yesterday’s sectarian clash. Informed sources said that DGP, Kuldeep Khoda, IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Naseem Lankar, told the visiting officers that the situation was “tense but under control”. According to them, it was reassuring that no untoward incident or violation of curfew restrictions had taken place since last evening.
Sources said that the Ministers wound up their tour in just 15 minutes and returned to the Capital city without arranging any meeting with representatives of the warring sects. Residents of the worst affected Ahmedpora, Kongamdara, Hagarpora, Maharajpora and Tantraypora complained to Early Times that they requested the Ministers on mobile phones to visit all the five disturbed villages and constitute peace coordination committees for early resolution of the sectarian crisis but none of them did inspite of “half-hearted assurances”. Residents of Ahmedpora complained that within 10 minutes of the Ministers’ departure, a thin group of ruffians trooped into their village in brazen violation of curfew and ransacked the residential houses of one Syed Ali and Syed Hussain. They said that Syed Ali’s house was set on fire in presence of Police which was later extinguished by his fellow villagers.
Reports further said that groups of people gathered at several places and made at least two attempts of ransacking Nooripora and Shalboni villages. However, Police and CRPF swung into action and forced the crowds to disperse. Residents of at least three villages complained repeatedly that they had no faith in Police as it had sided with a particular sect and remained prejudicial in handling of the situation. Questioning the role of DC Baramulla, SDPO Pattan and SHO Pattan, they said that SSP Baramulla, Shakil Baig, had appeared to be the only neutral and professional officer who even gave them his personal phone numbers and asked them to call him directly in case of any attack from the hostile groups. They demanded that entire area be handed over to CRPF or Army and Police be assigned the task of constituting peace coordination committees. They complained that Police had selectively arrested 15 persons and all of them belonged to only one sect. Those detained by Police included one Ghulam Rasool Malla S/o Abdul Kareem Malla of Maharajpora whose house was one among 30 residential houses torched and destroyed in fire yesterday. They lamented that the real culprits of both sects were roaming about freely and Police had arrested innocent people, teenage students and even a deaf and dumb only to show that it was working.
According to a Police intelligence report, corroborated by independent civilian sources, Police allowed highly inflammatory speeches after Friday prayers in the afternoon. A gathering of more than 500 people raised provocative slogans against the rival sect and some clergymen on Public Address System of a mosque in presence of Police. In sharp contrast, Shias as well as Sunnis of Mahajpora said that “raiders from outside” torched their houses yesterday but they failed to create any wedge or mistrust between the two sects in that particular village.
DGP Kuldeep Khoda asserted that the authorities were in total control of the situation. “There were wild rumours for the whole day. All of these turned out to be incorrect. Situation is tense and curfew stands imposed but we are in total control of the situation”, DGP told Early Times. He claimed that no incident of clash, stabbing or burning of property had taken place in the last 24 hours and said that the situation would remarkably improve in a couple of days.
Sources said that the Ministers and DGP called the influential Shia cleric-politician Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari’s brother, Maulvi Abid Ansari, and held a meeting with him at a state guest house. Amid a bitter altercation between Minister of Agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir and Abid Ansari, it was decided that the later would visit the disturbed Shia population villages alongwith Additional Commissioner of Kashmir and SSP of Budgam and help in constituting the peace coordination committees comprising representatives of both sects from the affected villages.
“We assured full cooperation to the Government on the condition that the controversial DC, SDPO and SHO be removed for their partisan role and incompetence, assessment of damage be conducted and full compensation be paid to the affected families within a week’s time and the basic crisis over the naming of a market between Ahmedpora and Kungamdara be resolved with a consensus of the representatives of both sects within a time frame”, Abid Ansari said. MLA from Pattan and cleric-politician Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari is presently in Syria.