Following two incidents of fire, including one at a temple, in Kishtwar on Tuesday and a rumour of cow slaughter the next day, Jammu and Kashmir Police suspect that attempts were being made to engineer communal tension in the sensitive Chenab Valley region.
Police suspect the involvement of some miscreants behind the burning of the temple and two houses in Chatru area. Pointing out that the incidents indicate a pattern, official sources said that forensic experts called from Jammu have ruled out short-circuit as the reason behind the fires.
Police sources said the fire first broke out at the houses of Malal Chand and Rajesh Kumar at Chhan Siri village at around 2 am. Though both the houses have electricity connection, there was no power supply in the village at that time. As a result, nobody from the affected families could notice any suspicious movement.
Nearly three hours later, the ancient temple of Mehar Devta at Mughal Maidan area, around 5 km from the village, was gutted. Sources said the single-storey wooden structure has neither electricity connection nor any inflammable material stored within its vicinity to have caused the fire. Also, there is no civilian population living in the nearby area.
While timely intervention by civil and police administration ensured the situation was under control, tension prevailed in Kishtwar again the next morning following reports of a cow slaughter in the town. Hindu merchants closed their business establishments in protest and vehicular traffic also remained off the roads.
As senior police officers swung into action to locate the carcass, the reports turned out to be rumours. However, the police had a difficult time convincing people.
Following the incidents, Minister of State for Home Sunil Sharma along with Jammu zone Inspector General of Police (IGP) Danish Rana rushed from Jammu and assured people of stern action. To keep the situation under control, Sharma also announced Rs 1 lakh for the reconstruction of the temple and Rs 10,000 each to the affected families. He also assured release of Rs 1 lakh each for the reconstruction of their houses under Indira Awaas Yojana.
Union Minister of State Dr Jitendra Singh announced Rs 5 lakh out of his MPLAD fund for the reconstruction of their houses.
Besides, the IGP announced the constitution of an SIT headed by Kishtwar Additional Superintendent of Police Abdul Qayoom to investigate the incidents.
Additional SP Qayoom, when contacted, admitted the incidents in the district during the last two days appear to have a pattern. “We have taken these incidents seriously and have intensified our vigil,’’ he added.
Meanwhile, former minister and opposition National Conference MLC Sajjad Kitchloo cautioned people against “divisive forces that are hell bent upon dividing people on communal lines”. Describing the recent incidents as “politically motivated”, Kitchloo complimented the people for maintaining peace and brotherhood.
He also called for action against those behind incidents of arson and rumour mongering.