“You are our brothers, you are a part of this society”

Quoting from the epic Mahabharata, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Sunday sought to reach out to the Kashmiri Pandit families who returned to the Valley after two decades, assuring them that they would be safe.

The 81-year-old leader drove to the transit camp located 70 km from Srinagar and addressed over 100 Kashmiri Pandit members who have returned after the State government's appeal to the people who fled the Valley in the wake of the outbreak of militancy in 1980s to come back.

While welcoming them, Mr. Geelani asked them to move to their ancestral homes and not live in isolated places. He assured them that they would be safe as the fight of the separatists was not against them.

Citing the Mahabharata, Mr. Geelani narrated the famous conversation between Arjuna and Lord Krishna when Pandavas were taking on the Kauravas.

‘Battle of principles'

“When Arjuna faltered in the fight against Kauravas, Maharaj Krishna told him that it was a battle based on principles. You have to fight even your own brothers for principles,” Mr. Geelani said, while claiming that his struggle was based on principles.

“I welcome you on behalf of the majority community. You are being called migrants, but you are not migrants. You are our brothers, you are a part of this society, you are a part of our body,” he said.

He also quoted verses from the Koran about humanity and brotherhood.

“Our fight with them [Centre] is based on principles and we will not negotiate on our principles,” he said.

Later, members of the Pandit community spoke to Mr. Geelani about issues ranging from proper accommodation, salaries to ration.

The Hurriyat leader later visited another Kashmiri Pandit transit camp at Mattan in south Kashmir's Anantnag district.

At the Vessu camp, Rohit Singh Jamwal, who was two years old when his family migrated from their ancestral village in Kulgam, said it felt good to be here.

“But we feel insecure...insecure to move out in the market because you never know. What we want is the support of the majority community and Mr. Geelani's visit is a bit of a relief,” Jamwal, a teacher and an IAS aspirant, said.