Centre not for relocation of Kashmiri Pandits now

This comes in the wake of increase in targeted killing of civilians in J&K and demands from the community to relocate them to Jammu

June 02, 2022 08:42 pm | Updated June 03, 2022 07:59 am IST - New Delhi

A school boy during a protest by Kashmiri Pandits in Srinagar on May 31, 2022 against the killing of a schoolteacher by militants.

A school boy during a protest by Kashmiri Pandits in Srinagar on May 31, 2022 against the killing of a schoolteacher by militants. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Centre is not in favour of moving Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus from the Kashmir Valley to Jammu as it would be a repeat of the situation in the 1990s when thousands migrated out of the Valley under government’s watch in wake of repeated threats and attacks, a senior government official said on Thursday.

As targeted killing of civilians in the Kashmir Valley continued, Union Home Minister Amit Shah met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Secretary, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) Samant Goel and Special Director, Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.S Rajan on Thursday. The details of the meeting were not known.

Mr. Shah is expected to meet Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha on Friday to discuss the security arrangement for the upcoming Amarnath Yatra and the recent killings are likely to be discussed.

The Kashmiri Pandit employees, recruited under the Prime Minister’s special rehabilitation package from 2008 onward and the Hindu employees from Jammu recruited under the Scheduled Caste category and posted in the Valley have been demanding relocation to Jammu. The Kashmiri Pandits employed under the scheme stay in gated colonies built by the government.

Ardent demands

The demand to relocate have intensified since May 12 when a revenue official Rahul Bhat was singled out and killed in his office in Chadoora area of Budgam. On June 1, a Hindu teacher Rajni Bala was killed on way to work in Kulgam and on June 2, a bank employee from Rajasthan- Vijay Kumar was shot dead when he was at his office in Kulgam.

“Though we are seized of the matter, the administration cannot agree to the demands of minorities to move them stock and barrel to Jammu. The government employees can be posted in district headquarters and at places where adequate security is available,” said the official.

As many as 18 Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus have been killed in Kashmir Valley after Article 370 granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir was written down by Parliament in August 2019.

Another official said Pakistan sponsored terrorist groups were planning and executing the killings, especially of minorities, as a retaliation against supposed “demographic changes attempts by Delhi.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Rajya Sabha on February 9 that the land of 610 Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmri has been restored in the past five years. The Union Territory administration in Jammu and Kashmir had launched a portal in September 2021 to address the grievances of Kashmiri Migrants related to immovable properties and community assets.

Since October last, there have been a series of attacks in Srinagar- Central Kashmir belt. “Anonymity and floating population gives the terrorists a cover to carry out attacks with impunity in Srinagar and nearby areas. The terrorists are now leaderless and faceless,” said the official.

Officials estimate that the Valley has been flooded with small weapons in the past six months, pushed into India from Pakistan through drones and tunnels along the Jammu border. There is an assessment by agencies that the targeted attacks would increase in the coming days. The Border Security Force (BSF) has detected at least five tunnels in the past 18 months along the Jammu border.

“The narcotics syndicate in Punjab is also being used to push in the weapons, which make their way to the Valley. On May 23, the police had recovered 18 pistols, 30 magazines, 300 rounds and one silencer from two militant modules in the Valley.

Changed strategy

“The brief lull in activity post Article 370 has been broken since October 2021. The terrorist groups have changed strategy and are resorting to killing minorities and non-locals to make it appear as a war against changing the demography of the Muslim majority Valley. The recent delimitation exercise is also being perceived as a mode to change the demography of the Valley,” said the official.

The official added that since March, there have been nine mysterious explosions in buses and vehicles and open spaces in Jammu division and Srinagar.

On May 12, a bus full of pilgrims to Vaishno Devi shrine caught fire near Katra where four persons were killed. The police was initially investigating the incident as an accident. Days later, a little known terror group- Jammu and Kashmir Freedom Fighters (JKFF) claimed responsibility for the attack carried out with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). One person was killed and 13 were injured in a low-intensity IED blast at a busy market in Udhampur district on March 9. At least four explosions have occurred in March-April at Kotranka in Rajouri district of Jammu. On April 6, Amjad Ali, a tempo driver was grievously injured when an explosion occurred in his vehicle near Botanical Garden in Nishat area of Srinagar. The police said it was a cylinder blast.

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