With the protests in Jammu against the attack on the CRPF having turned violent, the restive Himalayan state is headed for polarisation ahead of the 2019 elections.
While protests and bandhs are observed in Jammu after any major terror attack, this time the scale of violence specifically targeting areas with Kashmiri Muslims is unprecedented.
Kashmiris were never targeted directly during the 2008 Amarnath land row agitation and during the protests after the 2016 Uri terror attack in which 19 soldiers were killed. More than two dozen Kashmiris were injured in mob violence and property worth crores was vandalised by anti-social elements during the riots.
In the last two decades or so, a large number of Kashmiris have purchased properties in and around Jammu city for reasons that include better winter weather conditions as well as peace and education for their children.
In the last few years, while radicalisation has been growing in the Kashmir Valley, communal forces have whipped up ‘Hindutva’ in the Jammu region, especially in and around Jammu city.
Majid Hyderi, a Valley-based political commentator, feels that the influence of right-wing parties in the Jammu region is the cause of the current unrest in the state. “Right-wing parties have always held a stronghold in Jammu and the way the police have been silent about rioters and mobsters, it becomes obvious that such parties are behind this,” he said in an indirect reference to the BJP.
Hyderi said that a perception was being manufactured that Muslims, especially Kashmiri Muslims, were settling down in Jammu city to change the demography of the region. “Some groups have been consistently fanning such perceptions for petty political gains,” he said.
“Kashmir cannot be isolated from the rest of the country and its alienated population brought to heel by suppression and oppression," he said. "There is a need to open the doors and hearts to its citizens in other parts of the country instead of subjecting them to oppression in the name of safeguarding the state.”
Asked to comment on the impact of the current situation in Kashmir, Hyderi said, “The Valley has already seen protests and strikes against violence in Jammu and other parts of the country. While Kashmiri government officials posted in Jammu have threatened to boycott their offices if the Raj Bhavan fails to bring the situation under control, the situation may turn uglier in the coming days if corrective measures are not taken.”
Advocate Sheikh Shakeel, a civil society member from Jammu, blames “elements” for trying to change the atmosphere.
“Jammu is a city of communal harmony but some elements for some time are trying to vitiate the atmosphere. The recent violence suggests that the administration had given a free hand to hooligans, which never happened in the past,” he said.
While tempers are running high in both the regions of the state, statements such as the ones from the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry condemning the vandalism and attacks on Kashmiris and a particular community have brought some hope. The JCCI, which had called for a Jammu bandh against the Pulwama terror attack, termed the attacks on Kashmiris as a blot on the face of Jammu.
Since the Partition, there has not been a single communal riot in Jammu city, which has actually become a melting pot of all the regions, religions and communities of the state. However, recent violence has shed light on what has now become a boiling pot of tensions.