IN THE first action of this scale in communally sensitive Kishtwar, 40 people have been booked for sedition and investigations have begun into the role of more than two dozen government employees over “anti-India” protests after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani. After the arrest of five on Saturday put Kishtwar on the edge, curfew was imposed in the Jammu town. Wednesday saw some relaxation in curfew hours.
The five arrested include Animal and Sheep Husbandary Department Stock Assistant Ajaz Kilam alias Raju Kelam; Abdul Qayoom Mattoo, the imam of a mosque in Omar Mohalla and a Hurriyat leader; Saifuddin Bhagwan (a local businessman); Firdous Ahmed Bhagwan (a local businessman); and Syed Aqib, a student.
Kilam, Mattoo and Saifuddin have been lodged in the high-security Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu under the Public Safety Act, which allows the government to keep a person detained for six months without a trial.
Police are looking for the imam of Banstan mosque, Qari Mansoor. They have received approval for his detention under the PSA. Police had gone to arrest him on Saturday night, but he managed to escape after locals including women chased them away using stones.
Police have also sought detention of two others under the PSA, including another local businessman called Firdous Bhagwan and a student, Shabir Peer.
Sources said the 40 booked for sedition, including a state government employee, Firdous Ahmed (Animal and Sheep Husbandry Department), are wanted for protests held in the town between July 11 and September 13. Apprehending arrest, most of them have gone underground. Their family members refused to talk, fearing police backlash.
The 25 government employees are being investigated for participation in protests at the local bus stand on August 4 and 5. Some of these officials, who work in both Central and state departments, told The Indian Express they were just passing through the area and had stopped to see what was happening.
Following the arrests on Saturday, local imams gave call for a bandh in Kishtwar, which led the district administration to impose an indefinite curfew on Sunday morning. On Monday, there was slogan-shouting and threats of violence when curfew was relaxed between 4 pm and 6 pm. However, the situation has been peaceful since then, and on Wednesday, curfew was relaxed from 8 am to 6 pm.
Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner Ghulam Nabi Balwan admitted receiving a list from police of nearly two dozen employees whose role they were looking into, and said he had asked the concerned heads of department to hold inquiries and inform him about the action taken in case and whether the charges were true.
“Police claim they have photographs of these employees at the protests, but we must check whether they were there as participants or just passing through and had stopped out of curiosity,” Balwan said.
Balwan and Kishtwar Senior Superintendent of Police Sandeep Wazir claimed they had waited so long to make the arrests as they wanted the Hindu festivals between July and September and Eid to get over, to avoid any communal disturbance.
“Once Eid passed off peacefully, we swung into action,” said Balwan, adding that maintaining peace was their top priority.
Majlis-e-Shoura, an organisation including imams of local mosques, has been holding protests and marches in Kishtwar over the killing of Burhan Wani. While the town, located in Jammu province, has seen pro-azadi protests in the past, it had not seen them recently.
Local Muslims are angry at the police action. Many pointed out that that their youths were still facing trial over communal clashes during 2013 Eid, which had left three dead and over 80 injured. The Hindu murder accused in the riots have managed to escape arrest so far.