Hostilities flared in Indian-held Kashmir after a right-wing Hindu group set a Muslim flag ablaze, claiming it was the banner of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), the Journal of Turkish Weekly reports.
Some local government officials said burning the ISIS flag was as an act of nationalism.
“A curfew was clamped down on a town in Indian-held Kashmir amid rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the area,” states the report.
“The hostility arose Tuesday after a right-wing Hindu group in the town of Rajouri burnt a flag inscribed with part of the Islamic declaration of faith, the Kalima Tayyiba, claiming it was the flag of Syria-based militant group Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS].”
The Muslim minority in the district were outraged by the Hindu group’s actions, accusing it of attacking their religious identity and being inspired by Hindu nationalism under the ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been in power since last year.
Restrictions were implemented prohibiting gatherings of more than four people, “but still people are trying to violate the restrictions and it has become necessary to impose curfew restrictions in the town,” Rajouri District Magistrate Deepti Uppal reportedly said.
So far, an estimated 15 people have been arrested for violating curfew, officials revealed.
“The Muslim community in Rajouri has threatened to hold protests and a shutdown if the police did not arrest the activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal, hardline parties closely linked with the ruling BJP, for burning the flag bearing holy verses,” notes the Journal of Turkish Weekly.
Nirmal Singh, the local BJP leader and deputy chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, has refused to arrest the activists, saying that burning the ISIS flag was “an act of nationalism.”
“As far as the setting aflame of the [ISIS] flags is concerned, it is a terrorist outfit symbol,” Singh said, adding that “burning of the symbol of terrorists and anti-national elements is the work of nationalism. They [VHP activists] cannot be arrested. This is not possible, why should we arrest them?”
“Unfortunately the ISIS symbol is a flag with the Kalima and it is that which has caused this issue. We are hoping for peace and calm in the area right now and we have taken steps to ensure that,” added Naeem Akhter, a spokesman for the Indian-backed Kashmir government and the Kashmir People’s Democratic Party.
Pro-independence groups in Kashmir condemned the burning of the flag, arguing that it was an act of aggression against Muslims, rather than a misunderstanding.
Overall, Kashmir is a Muslim-majority Himalayan region. India and Pakistan hold parts of Kashmir with both countries claiming ownership of the entire region. China holds a part of the region as well.