Ghost of Kishtwar riots haunt Sajjad Kitchloo yet again

Jammu: Fifteen months after exonerating former minister of state for Home Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo in his interim report, Justice RC Gandhi (retired) has indicted him, former IGP Jammu Rajesh Kumar, then DIG Doda-Kishtwar range Ashkoor Wani and then Deputy Commissioner Kishtwar Mohammad Saleem in Kishtwar communal violence that left four persons dead.
The news of indictment caused uproar in the legislative assembly on Sunday.
The agitated treasury benches demanded Kitchloo’s arrest However, they were pacified by Speaker Kavinder Gupta who said Kitchloo was not a member of the House and, therefore, no action could be taken against him.
The government, however, has yet to examine the report.
Education minister Nayeem Akhter said. “It was just a fact finding enquiry. It is not binding on the government,” he said.
The uproar in the House prompted former Speaker Muhammad Akbar Lone to remark that it was “wrong to blame one person”.
“The Commission cannot indict anybody,” he said.
On August 9, 2013 communal clashes broke out after Eid prayers resulting in death of four people and injuries to 80 others. Several vehicles were set ablaze by mobs.
Kitchloo was forced to resign following allegations of his involvement in the riots. He was in the town on the day and was accused of failure to handle the situation. Some quarters also accused him of giving sufficient time to the rioters to go for the loot and kill.
The Bar Association in Jammu (BAJ) also sought an investigation.
“Kitchloo runs a gun shop in Kishtwar and his shop was either allowed to be looted or was thrown open for rioters before the situation took an ugly turn after Eid prayers,” the BAJ alleged.
Kitchloo, however, was re-inducted into the ministry following a clean chit from Justice Gandhi in his interim report.
Giving reasons for the clean chit, Justice Gandhi had said that none of the persons who had solicited affidavits deposed before the commission.
Justice Gandhi also suggested to treat Kitchloo as a victim and not an accused. He also advocated for formation of Muslim VDCs so as to make a balancing act or otherwise according to it there will be a feel of insecurity among the Muslim community that “can prove fatal for the law and order in future as well”.

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