Amid growing differences between the J&K Lieutenant Governor and the BJP over the ongoing protests by Kashmiri Pandits in J&K, migrant Pandit employees, who were posted in Kashmir Valley under a special employment scheme, on Tuesday approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) to strike down a clause that makes it mandatory for such Pandit employees to serve only in the Kashmir division.
A petition filed by Pandit employees Boopinder Bhat and Yogesh Pandita reads, “The targetted killings make it crystal clear that the respondents (the J&K administration) have failed to provide a secure environment to Kashmiri Pandit employees at their respective place of posting. The rule is jeopardising the life and safety of the employees, which is clearly violative of the right to life provided under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and as such deserves to be set aside.”
The petition is likely to be listed for a hearing by the tribunal on December 30.
The clause in rule
In 2010, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had devised a special relief and rehabilitation package for migrant Pandits in a bid to help them return to the Valley. Around 6,000 posts were created in the Kashmir division for all Kashmiri migrant Pandits whose families had left the Valley in the wake of raging militancy since 1990.
However, according to the Sub-Rule 4 of Rule 4 of the Jammu and Kashmir Kashmiri Migrants (Special Drive) Recruitment Rules, 2009, “in case the appointee migrates from the Valley again for any reason whatsoever, he shall lose the job without any notice and shall stand terminated”.
The petition argues for doing away with the Sub-Rule 6 and demands a court order to stop the L-G administration from “taking any adverse action against migrant employees, who are not able to join their duties owing to the threat to their lives and well-being.”
After the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, the Pandits have again been in the crosshairs of militants. In a sudden spurt in attacks on Pandits and Jammu Hindu employees, recruited under Schedule Caste (SC) quota and posted in Kashmir, militants have killed at least 20 civilians since June 8, 2020 in Kashmir. This includes six Kashmiri Pandits.
The fresh migration started this year when militants killed a Pandit employee, Rahul Bhat, in his office in Budgam in May this year. It was followed by the killing of a Hindu teacher from Jammu, Rajni Bala, outside a school in Kulgam in May. Following the spate of attacks, around 5,500 Pandit employees who were recruited under the special package went on a protest and boycotted duties in Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the petition has also come amid differences between J&K L-G Manoj Sinha and the BJP leaders in the Union Territory. While L-G Sinha has hardened his position and asked the protesting employees to join duties to seek salaries, the BJP leadership has extended their support to Pandits who are demanding relocation to Jammu “till the situation is brought under control in Kashmir”.
L-G Sinha has said that the killings in Kashmir should not be seen from the prism of religion. Union Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh, however, said, “nothing can be more valuable than a human life”. “If there is a threat even to one life, it is better to save that life even if it means closing down a dozen offices,” he added.
J&K’s top leaders, including Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Ghulam Nabi Azad, have supported Pandits’ demand to be relocated to Jammu temporarily.