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Monday, July 16, 2018

Kishtwar riots planned for two months: Ex-minister Kitchloo

'Toll would have been in hundreds had I not intervened effectively'.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | Jammu | Published: August 14, 2013 1:40:43 am

Former Jammu & Kashmir minister of state for home Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo on Tuesday said the communal riots in Kishtwar on Eid had been planned over the past two months.

The minister,who is also MLA from Kishtwar and was present in the town as the riots raged,resigned on Monday. He did not specify who was behind the violence,but said a “majority” of the residents of his constituency were not involved.

“It (the riots) was most certainly a pre-planned incident. Everything was being planned for the last almost two months by some elements who wanted to destroy the peace and harmony in the area. But,at the same time,a majority of residents of my constituency,Muslims as well as Hindus,had no role in the same,” Kitchloo told The Indian Express in an interview. The former minister brushed aside allegations of inaction on his part,and said the death toll would have been “in hundreds” had he not intervened effectively. Three people died in the clashes.

“When the rioting began,I was whisked away to the Dak Bungalow. There,I too came under attack. But despite heavy stone-pelting in which many police personnel in the area got injured,I was constantly making efforts,issuing orders,doing whatever I could to restore peace. But tell me,tomorrow if riots happen in any minister’s area,will he be asked to resign as well?” Kitchloo said.

Kitchloo strongly refuted allegations,also made by leaders of the Congress,the National Conference’s partner in power,that he played a role in the violence. “Everyone knows that my politics is not community-based,unlike the BJP’s which is trying to polarise the people and divide them on communal lines for political gains,” he said.

“Both in 2004 and 2008,I won by good margins because Hindus voted for me in large numbers. Voters in my constituency understand that when they need me,I never think of which religion they follow. That is why the BJP has been trying to vitiate the atmosphere in Kishtwar. Isn’t it a fact that the state BJP secretary,Sunil Sharma,was himself leading a mob on Eid? All these things,I am sure,will come out in the judicial inquiry that has been announced by the chief minister.”

Sharma contested the last Assembly election against Kitchloo and lost. Asked why,if the violence was indeed planned in advance,the government,and he as minister of state for home,did not take pre-emptive action,Kitchloo said: “We did take some steps. But what can anyone do when thousands of people break the peace?”

The former minister alleged that the Congress leaders who were targeting him were “trying to play their own petty political games”,but who would ultimately be “exposed”.

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