PM Narendra Modi in Kanpur cited the attack on Kashmiris in Lucknow and said it was crucial to maintain an atmosphere of unity in the country.
The attack was part of a countrywide backlash against Kashmiris after it became known that a 19-year-old from Jammu and Kashmir was the suicide bomber responsible for last month’s terror attack in Pulwama, in which 40 CRPF personnel died.
Days later, the Indian Air Force had conducted air strikes at a Jaish-e Mohammed camp at Pakistan’s Balakot, setting off an escalation of tension with Pakistan.
Wednesday’s attack on the two Kashmiri traders in Lucknow, the last known incident of the kind, has triggered widespread condemnation. Cellphone videos of their attack showed men dressed in saffron, beating the traders with sticks, hauling them by the collar, abusing them and finally, demanding that they prove they are Indian.
Speaking at Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, PM Modi said, “It is crucial to maintain an atmosphere of unity in the country…In Lucknow what some lunatics had done to our Kashmiri brothers — UP government had investigated it promptly.”
Five men from a right-wing fronge group have been arrested for the attack. On their social media posts and accounts, the men indicated that they were linked to the BJP — a claim the party has denied.
The Prime Minister had spoken about attacks on Kashmiris earlier too, though on more general terms. More than a week after the attacks began, he said specific incidents were “not the issue” but people from Kashmir must not be harmed.
In Beawar today, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also sent a strong message regarding the attacks on Kashmiri students attending schools and universities in other states.
“Want to convey a message to entire country, heard of a few incidents against Kashmiri children. Kashmiris are, were and will remain our people. Have requested Chief Ministers of all states that Kashmiri students must be protected and loved,” said Mr Singh, who represents Lucknow in the Lok Sabha.
The minister also sent a strong message to the BJP workers: “If somebody conspires and troubles our Kashmiri students then it’s the responsibility of BJP workers to stand with the Kashmiri students,” news agency ANI quoted him as saying.
The attacks on Kashmiris, had triggered huge anger in Kashmir, bringing together political leaders from across the board. Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, bitter rivals otherwise, had spoken about the issue in one voice.
After the attack in Lucknow, he tweeted: “”Nothing will do more damage to the idea of India in J&K than videos like these. Keep thrashing Kashmiris like this on the streets at the hands of RSS/Bajrang Dal goons and then try to sell the idea of ”atoot ang” (integral part), it simply won’t fly”.