At a time when political parties should be burying their differences to stand firm against Pakistan’s hostility, they are busy scoring points and stirring trouble. The visit on Sunday of BJP leader Arun Jaitley and J&K’s People’s Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti to Kishtwar when emotions are running high could have triggered clashes. Both are known to give emotional speeches, which can incite mobs. The state government did well to stop them from going to Kishtwar at this point. While its decision can be interpreted as a threat to their right to movement guaranteed under the Indian constitution, it became necessary to prevent possible violence.
Incidents of communal violence are rarely spontaneous. They are often planned, engineered and triggered by groups and individuals keen to polarise society. With elections to Parliament and the J&K Assembly due in 2014, politicians will be looking to polarise society and reap votes. Instead of waiting for them to mend their ways, the state’s civil society needs to act. Research on communal violence in India indicates that cities that have cross-community associations are less prone to erupt in communal violence. The civil society can make efforts to set up such associations as these can prevent tension from escalating into violence. As for the J&K government, besides stepping up the deployment of security personnel, it must act on rumours that are fuelling violence. It must provide people with information that is accurate. Being niggardly with information on the ground and opacity is not the best approach during times of tension.