Srinagar: A group of nomadic families travelling from Jammu’s Samba district to the Kashmir valley with livestock was attacked on Wednesday by self-styled vigilantes leaving many including children injured in a case of apparent hate crime.
The six families from the nomadic Bakarwal tribe were attacked just after they left their home for the annual summer migration to Kashmir along with their livestock on two trucks, according to eye-witnesses. Amongst those injured are a seven-year-old boy and a 40-year-old man, however, both are now in a stable condition
The Station House Officer (SHO) of police station Samba told Newsclick that an FIR has been filed in the incident and an investigation has been initiated.
Rafaqat Ali’s family was also one of the six families travelling in the two trucks when they were attacked. The 28-year-old told Newsclick that despite having all the permissions from the district magistrate and other local authorities including the police to ferry livestock, they were attacked and the police allegedly did not help them. “As soon as I saw the gang of men armed with clubs, sticks and other weapons, I asked my driver to drive towards a police checkpost. But little did we know that the policemen posted there will be complicit,” Rafaqat said.
Rafaqat was himself injured as the mob attacked them and vandalised the trucks as well. He said he knew the gang leader, who is a local known as Sunny. “They did not differentiate between children or women and began to hit everyone with murderous rage. The police just stood there,” he added.
This is not the first such attack on Muslim nomadic pastoralists like the Gujjars and Bakerwals in the region. Earlier in March, Samba police began an investigation in an attack on a Gujjar family when unidentified assailants tried to abduct and molest a minor. The two largest Scheduled Tribe communities are considered to be one of the worst victims of such hate crimes in the Hindu majority areas of Jammu.
Many nomadic Bakerwals travel to greener pastures of Kashmir in summer time while covering hundreds of kilometres by foot with their families and livestock. In recent years, some of them have started to make this arduous journey on trucks as their lives have begun improving. However, many of them say neither mode of transport is safe.
The attacks on Muslim pastoralists by Hindutva fanatics and cow-vigilantes have increased since the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party assumed power in New Delhi even as the party has pitched their aspiration against other communities in Jammu and Kashmir.
Faisal Raza, the district president of J&K Gujjar Bakarwal Youth Welfare Conference (JKGBYWC), said that there have been more than a dozen recent cases of hate crimes against the communities. “We have tried to highlight as many as we could but, many of them have gone unreported,” Raza said.
The tribal activist, who is from the same village as the victims, said he had also contacted the police urging them to nab the perpetrators.
“A day before nomads in Shopian were thrashed by officials of Forest deptt. Last night nomads were attacked in Samba by goons. BJP’s tall claim that Gujjar comm got rights after abrogation of Article 370 are in front of us. We never witnessed such type of incidents before 5 August,” another JKGBYC spokesperson and activist Guftar Ahmad tweeted after the incident in Samba. On August 5, 2019, the BJP-led central government revoked Kashmir’s special status that was granted under Article 370 of the Constitution.
The six families including Rafaqat, even though taumatised after the attack, continued their journey to Kashmir and are expected to reach on Wednesday night. “We want to reach our destination before we can take the injured for better treatment,” he said.