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J&K: Pulwama Residents Forced to Chant 'Jai Sri Ram', Hold Protest

Anees Zargar |
Some Indian Army personnel allegedly forced Zadoora villagers to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’ in the wee hours on Saturday. Army brass assures action.
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Image for representational purpose. (File Image)

Srinagar: Local residents of Zadoora village in South Kashmir’s Pulwama on Monday held a protest against an incident in which Indian Army personnel had allegedly forced some of the villagers to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’ in the wee hours on Saturday.

Following the peaceful protest, a senior Army and other police officials assured the demonstrators that an inquiry had been initiated against the officer involved in the incident.

A resident, who was part of the protest, told NewsClick that the security officials persuaded them that such an incident “will not be allowed to happen again”.

Altaf Ahmad, an eye-witness to the incident, said that such an instance has never happened in the area even once in the past three decades when violence was at its peak.

“We do not want anyone to jeopardise peace and the local officers have assured us that an inquiry has been initiated against the Major(Army)  involved in the incident,” he told NewsClick. 

According to an eye-witness, a group of Army personnel arrived in the village in the intervening nights of June 23 and June 24 in what appeared to them as a raid. During the incident, the Army personnel allegedly beat up at least six locals in which two were grievously injured. 

“The Major leading the operation has unleashed a reign of terror since the past month. He stands on the bonnet of an armed vehicle and roughs up locals in an inebriated state like a Mafia don. When he heard the Azaan from the mosque, he stopped the muezzin and forced him to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’ instead,” a local resident recalled. 

The muezzin, however, argued against it, including trying to reason with the officer that the mosque’s loudspeaker had stopped working but he was forced to chant the Hindu slogan – often used by Right-wing fanatics as a war cry – in front of the mosque.

The incident has caused distress across Kashmir valley, especially in the Zadoora village, where local residents, including those injured, are deeply disturbed.

“The injured were taken to the hospital for treatment after their families and neighbours insisted and one of them fainted. Otherwise they were not willing to go due to extreme fear and panic,” Altaf said. 

Following the incident, the political leadership in Jammu and Kashmir has called for an investigation in the incident. The Srinagar-based Defence spokesperson told NewsClick that they would share an “update” soon.

Leaders from all major regional parties, including two former chief ministers of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, also expressed their concern on Twitter while condemning the incident and urged the authorities to punish the alleged perpetrators. 

The incident happened amidst the visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the Union territory.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti termed the action as a “provocation” ahead of the Amarnath Yatra which is commencing from July 1. 

“Shocked to hear about army troops from 50 RR (Rashtriya Rifles) storming into a mosque at Pulwama and forcing Muslims inside to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’. Such a move when Amit Shah is here and that too ahead of Yatra is simply an act of provocation. Request @RgGhai to immediately set up a probe,” the former chief minister said. 

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also called for an investigation in the incident and urged Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for his intervention in the matter.

“Reports of security force personnel entering a mosque in Zadoora in Pulwama are deeply distressing. It’s bad enough they entered but then forcing people to chant slogans like “Jai Shree Ram” as reported by the locals there, is unacceptable. I hope @rajnathsingh ji will issue instructions for these reports to be investigated in a timely and transparent manner,” Omar tweeted. 

Many claim that the incident has not only risked the peace but also threatened religious harmony in the region already marred by violence. 

“This is unacceptable and unbecoming of any disciplined army. The incident must be probed in a transparent and swift manner. Those found guilty should be punished,” CPI (M) leader M Y Tarigami said. 

Political leadership, Muslim scholars and members of the civil society have been claiming since the last three years that the religious rights in Jammu and Kashmir are facing unprecedented curbs and interference with authorities imposing rules contrary to values and ethos of the majority population. 

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulama (MMU) Jammu and Kashmir, an amalgam representing over 40 social-religious groups in the region, in its statement on Monday slammed the authorities for their “silence” and asked them to “clarify” their position in this regard.

“The MMU expressed concern over the fact that the government backed institutions in Jammu and Kashmir are increasingly interfering with the management and working of mosques, shrines, imambaras and other religious institutions, saying this is causing distress which needs to be addressed,” the body said.

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