Beneath the communal violence in Kishtwar lies politics and creeping shadow of militancy
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The violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims on Eid day August 9 was not the first time the small town of Kishtwar found itself in national media. In the last two years, the district has attracted attention several times for involvement of its local youths in terror acts as well as for a controversial Facebook post that brought it to the brink of a communal row in 2012.
However, if from Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's angry outbursts and the BJP's stalling of Parliament to even Finance Minister P Chidambaram's drawing of a 1990 comparison, Kishtwar appears a communal cauldron, those who know this beautiful region and its history well and understand its unique position in the gap that separates Jammu from Kashmir say that is just half the story.
Their anger is directed at the government that acted too slowly, at the elements that fanned the tension, and at others for whom playing up the incident served well. It's not just about Hindus against Muslims, they say. Dig deeper, and it's about anti-national elements trying to use religion to divide a region that has long known peace, and finding willing collaborators on the rival side.
"The Kishtwar-Doda belt is a wonderful place, full of natural beauty at par with, if not more than, the Kashmir valley. The people living here are industrious, many of whom have done very well for themselves despite odds. But now our area is in the news for all the wrong reasons," rues Amjad Hussain Sheikh, a local resident.
Located about 230 km from Jammu, Kishtwar, earlier a part of Doda district, was given district status in 2007. While estimates differ, government officials say the ratio of Muslims to Hindus in the population is 55:45.