Former Minister of State for Home and sitting National Conference legislator in the Upper House of the Jammu and Kashmir legislature, Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, has been indicted by a one-man judicial commission that inquired into the communal riots that left three dead and over 80 injured in Kishtwar on Eid in 2013.
The Commission, headed by retired High Court Justice R C Gandhi, indicted nearly five dozen people, including senior IAS and IPS officers, for their role in the violence. Among the officers named are then IGP (Jammu) Rajesh Kumar, then DIG (Ramban-Doda-Kishtwar) Ashkoor Wani, and the then Kishtwar DC and SP Mohammad Saleem Choudhary and Dr Sunil Gupta respectively.
Kumar is now director of the Sher-e-Kashmir Police Academy in Udhampur, Wani is DIG, Traffic in Jammu, Gupta is SP, Leh, and Saleem Choudhary is with the Rural Development Department.
The Commission has recommended a probe into the role played by civil and police officials posted at that time in Kishtwar town, sources said. It has hinted at a “larger conspiracy” behind the communal clashes, pointing out that the rioters had come prepared with containers full of kerosene.
Sources said the Commission has referred to the deposition of a police officer who had, quoting a forensic report, said kerosene was poured before residential and commercial buildings were torched.
During a nine-hour rampage, rioters had torched a large number of buildings on August 9, 2013. As the violence spilled to other places, the then Omar Abdullah government had imposed a curfew in various areas of the state, and put Kishtwar out of bounds, including for the media.
The inquiry has, however, exonerated the bodyguard of local BJP leader Sunil Sharma, now Minister of State for Revenue and R&B, of the charge of inciting trouble by ramming his motorcycle into people in the Eid procession. Quoting witnesses who said he was beaten up by the mob, the Commission has said that the man appeared in fact, to have been a victim of the violence.
It was Sharma who told reporters on Sunday that the Commission had indicted Kitchloo in its final report. The indictment for playing an active role in the violence comes a year after the same commission of inquiry had, in its interim report, exonerated him of “any involvement at any level” in the riots.
Kitchloo on Sunday expressed surprise over the report, and both the National Conference and Congress termed it “suspect”, and described the inquiry as “partial”.
“I don’t think so (that the Gandhi Commission has indicted me). How is it possible that he will indict me? He had given me a clean chit in the interim report,” the former MoS Home told The Indian Express. “It is all politics. Everybody in the state knows who planned the riots, and why.” Justice (retd) Gandhi himself said many witnesses had come forward after he submitted his interim report. “I won’t say (whether Kitchloo has been indicted or not). You read both the reports and then draw a conclusion,” he said.
The National Conference said the contradictory reports reflected on the credibility of the Commission. “We have not seen the report as yet. If the media reports are true and Justice R C Gandhi Commission has indicted Kitchloo, it puts a big question mark on the credibility of the commission,” NC provincial president Devendar Rana said.
“If he (Justice Gandhi) has now indicted Kitchloo, it means that either the earlier report, or the latest report is politically motivated. Either way, it makes the Commission of Inquiry suspect,” Rana added.
Kitchloo, who was also the Kishtwar MLA at the time of the riots, had resigned after the BJP accused him of having played a partisan role in the violence. After the Gandhi Commission’s interim report said “no evidence” had been found of his “involvement at any level, though he was in the town that day”, Kitchloo was re-inducted as MoS Home.
“It seems that the Justice wants to keep happy whosoever is in the government,” Ghulam Nabi Monga, senior Congress leader, said. “Had he (Justice Gandhi) written in his interim report that there was a prima facie case against Kitchloo, this would have been understandable. But how can you declare somebody innocent in the interim report, and accused in the final report?”
Communist leader M Y Tarigami said he was “surprised”, and demanded an “objective assessment of the whole situation”. “The fact is that certain elements vitiated the environment, polarised the situation for political ends,” Tarigami said. “There is a vested interest of some outfits to polarise the state. That was evident from the recently held elections as well.”
The PDP said it had not gone through the report. “Let’s first go through the report,” chief spokesman and Education minister Nayeem Akhtar said. “It would be then sent to the cabinet for a decision. We have not seen the report and it would not be proper for us to comment at this point of time.”
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