In yet another incident of violence against Muslims in the Jammu region, a gang of around two dozen people assaulted two families belonging to the Bakarwal nomadic community leaving several of them injured including children and women.
The incident took place in Palak Manana village in Nadda police limits in Samba district on Tuesday-Wednesday night.
The gang headed by certain Sunny was apparently self styled cow vigilantes who the locals said have a history of harassing and attacking tribal nomads who rare cattle.
It was around midnight when the two families along with their cattle were ready to leave their village for Kashmir valley in a truck when the gang waylaid them and launched the attack.
Shabbir Ahmad, 30, a head of one of the nomad families, said that they were unable to defend themselves as they did not anticipate the attack. “It seemed they had made a proper plan to attack us. Somebody was carrying a rod while others a scythe. They attacked everyone including women and children,” he said, adding, “My six-year-old son Shahid was injured in the attack. His eye is damaged.”
According to Shabbir, the attack lasted for three hours. The families asked the police for help at a checkpoint near Nadda police post but they watched as “mute spectators”. “We pleaded before the police but they did nothing,” added Shabbir. They also took away six of our goats and sheep and drove them away in vehicles. Shabbir named a as head of the gang that attacked the nomad families. When Clarion India approached the Superintendent of Police, Samba, Rajesh Shrama, for comment, he said he was not aware of the incident. The injured are yet to get any medical care except first aid from a pharmacy on the way as the families are scared and “want to reach Kashmir as soon as possible”. Shabbir said that this was not the first time they faced the violence at the hands of goons. “We are always targeted like this always. Rearing and selling cattle— a couple of buffaloes and cows, some sheep and goats— has been our profession for centuries but we are being harassed now for it.”
Faisal, another nomad from the village, alleged that Sunny and his gang had been involved in attacks on the minority community previously and even then police had not taken action against them. “He should be reined in,” he said.
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.
Shortly after Clarion India’s call to the SSP of the district, SHO of a police station in Samba approached this reporter and assured that they will take action in the matter after hearing the account of the family. “We will look into it and ensure that such incidents are not repeated,” the SHO said.
Community activists see the incident as part of the growing number of attacks on Gujjar and Bakarwal Muslim minorities in the Jammu region. “These attacks will not stop until police take strong action against goons. Attacks on Gujjar-Bakarwals in Jammu just because of their faith reveal the evil intention of right-wingers to repeat the horror of 1947. This is a big conspiracy against tribal Muslims,” said Guftar Ahmad Chaudhary, a tribal youth leader based in Rajouri district.