Staff Reporter

The cards classify the possessors as bona fide residents of Jammu & Kashmir

“Would give us a political, national, regional identity”

“All registration cards be converted into I-cards”

NEW DELHI: The Jammu and Kashmir Government gave away the first batch of identity cards to members of the displaced Kashmiri Pandit community that classify the possessors as bona fide residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

These cards, given out at a function in the Capital on Thursday, are intended for Pandits displaced from the Valley and living in different parts of the country.

Pointing out that the Jammu and Kashmir Government relented to their demand for identity cards after a protracted struggle, community leaders said the cards would give the community members a “political, national and regional identity”.

While over a thousand applications have been received by the Kashmiri Samiti, a nodal agency for displaced people for the issue of identity cards, close to 700 cards have been readied for despatch.

The first batch of these cards was handed over by the Principal Resident Commissioner S.V. Bhave, who said that the State Government would be apprised of other demands put forth by the community leaders.

“We want the Government to convert all registration cards that were issued to displaced people into identity cards. As of now, displaced people are eligible for financial assistance based on these registration cards, but we want these to double up as identity cards as well. The Jammu and Kashmir Government has said that no financial aid will be given based on the identity cards,” said Sunil Shakdher, chairman of the Political Advisory Committee of the Samiti.

“Living in camps is a punishment in itself and the Government should ensure decent living quarters for the displaced community apart from making provisions for their proper employment,” he said.

‘Beginning of a process’

Kashmiri Samiti president L. N. Dhar said: “It is not merely an identity card, but the beginning of a process, wherein Kashmiri Pandits will return to their homes. Nobody knows when that will happen, though a situation might arise where we will have to search for people who want to return, but with the cards we can at least identify them.”

He regretted that the Jammu and Kashmir administration did not pay attention to rehabilitation of the displaced people. “Perhaps they were busy countering terrorism in the State, but the Pandits, who were traumatised by the displacement, felt ignored. People lost confidence in the Jammu and Kashmir Government as there was no help forthcoming. Issuing these cards will help restore this lost confidence. The Kashmiri Pandits have a right to return to the Valley and that will happen when we feel secure,” he said.