JNN 11 Aug 2013 SRINAGAR — Fresh clashes erupted across Kishtwar and other districts of Indian- controlled Kashmir between Hindu and Muslim groups, forcing authorities to extend curfew to these areas on Sunday, police said.
In Jammu city protesters resorted to arson and set ablaze to some shops and vehicles of Muslims. Curfew has been imposed in the town to contain the situation.
Officials said three people were wounded after rival groups clashed with each other and burned some homes in Paddar, a village around 50 km north of Kishtwar town. Unconfirmed reports say the number of injured is higher.
A police official said police contingents were rushed to Paddar on Saturday evening to control the situation, and three people with gunshot wounds were evacuated by helicopter to a nearby hospital.
Reports said government-backed village defense committee (VDC) members have used their weapons to target Muslims and attacked a police station in Padder, where some Muslims had taken refuge.
Two people were killed and more than two dozen others were injured in the clashes since Friday. Around 100 shops and several vehicles were set ablaze in the rioting since Friday. Unconfirmed reports said death toll has rose to three.
The authorities have directed the VDC members in area to hand over their weapons to police. The government in 1990s provided weapons to more than 20,000 people in region to counter insurgency.
The VDC is a civilian militia trained locally and equipped with weapons and wireless sets to counter militant attacks and assist army and paramilitary troopers in cornering them. The VDC members are mostly drawn from Hindu community.
The officials said curfew was imposed in Udhampur, Samba, Kathua, Rajouri and Jammu as a precautionary measure. The Indian army has also been called in to help police to defuse the tension.
The clashes broke out Friday in Kuleed area of Kishtwar, 284 km south of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The authorities Sunday stopped India’s main opposition Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leader Ashok Jaitley at Jammu airport and prevented him from going to Kishtwar. The BJP supporters staged demonstrations to protest the move.
The region’s main opposition party leader Mehbooba Mufti was also put under house arrest in Srinagar to prevent her from visiting Kishtwar.
The region’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Sunday said situation was under control and has appealed for calm.
“An inquiry ordered by government into the communal clash would bring out facts and guilty would be punished,” Abdullah told media during a press conference in Srinagar.
“He accused some political parties of trying to exploit the situation for political gains and asked them to desist from doing so.”
Abdullah justified restrictions on political leaders from visiting Kishtwar saying it would further polarize the situation.
Abdullah will be traveling to Jammu to take stock of the situation.
Meanwhile authorities have blocked mobile Internet services in the entire Indian-controlled Kashmir to prevent rumor mongering.
The government has also blocked the vehicular traffic on Jammu- Srinagar highway and suspended the annual Hindu pilgrimage of Amarnath.
Meanwhile, normal life across the region was affected Sunday in response to shutdown calls extended by hardline separatist alliance Hurriyat (freedom) Conference and India’s Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) to protest the clashes.
Indian-controlled Kashmir is a Muslim majority region. However, in Kishtwar district the population of Hindus and Muslims is said to be in equal proportion.
According to locals the clashes triggered after some people from Hindu community jeered and threw stones at the procession of Muslims marching to attend Eid-ul-Fitr prayers, triggering clashes between the two communities. The Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of holy month of Ramadan.