Other States

A month after Rahul Bhat’s killing, over 5,400 Pandit employees refuse to join duty in Valley

Kashmiri Pandits  protest against killings in Budgam district.

Kashmiri Pandits protest against killings in Budgam district. | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

More than 5,000 Kashmiri Pandit employees, recruited under the Prime Minister’s special employment package since 2008, continued to stay away from offices in the Valley on Monday, even as a month has passed since a Pandit employee was shot dead by militants in his office in Budgam. 

However, top government officials were hopeful that the employees will rejoin duty within the next two weeks. 

Most of the Pandit employees termed the recent government measures, which included posting to district headquarters and safer places, as insufficient to address their security concerns. The community was frightened by the back-to-back targeted killings in May this year, which included one Kashmiri Pandit, two Hindus from Jammu, one Hindu from Rajasthan and three local Muslim policemen.  

“I have not rejoined the duties like others. Our prime demand is relocation and attachment with the Relief Commissioner’s office till the situation improves in Kashmir. Selective killings have left us scared,” Sanjay Koul, a Kashmiri Pandit employee from south Kashmir, told  The Hindu

Mr. Kaul termed the recent measures like re-designating supernumerary posts as divisional-level posts of the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) administration as service related. “The service related issues have nothing to do with the current agitation of Pandits. We never demanded promotions or safe locations. They should have been addressed earlier,” Mr. Kaul, who lives at the Vessu transit colony in Kulgam, said.

“I am not going to school anymore. Our children are also home-bound and skip classes unlike others. The future of our children is at stake. It’s taking a psychological toll on us,” he added. 

The government had directed secure posting for Kashmiri Pandits at the district headquarters across the Valley and in safer zones. At least 177 employees have been posted to safer zones in Srinagar from the education department so far. 

Vinod Kaul, an engineer in Srinagar, said none of the 300 Pandit employees living at the Sheikhpora colony in Budgam, where the deceased Bhat lived before he was killed in May 12, have joined their duties. “Rahul was also posted at the district headquarter. He was killed where a magistrate sits. We don’t think the threat level has gone down,” he said.

Mr. Kaul said he has to intimate the police every time he leaves home or visits the office in Srinagar. “The police also call to know if I have gone anywhere. Is this a sense of security?” he added.

However, the government has started measures to push the Pandits to rejoin their duties.

A.K. Pandita, commissioner of the Relief and Rehabilitation department, said only 50% of employees have left for Jammu. “I am hopeful they will rejoin in a week or fortnight. Security situation has improved. There is threat to life everywhere, even in Jammu. Most of the service-related issues have already been addressed. None of the employees will be transferred to Jammu because that will fail the purpose of the PM package,” Mr. Pandita added.

Official sources said district officers have been directed to intimate the Pandits employees and set a deadline for resuming duties.

According to the official figures, 5,412 have already been appointed under the PM package and posted in all 10 districts in the Valley.

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2022 2:11:35 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/a-month-after-rahul-bhats-killing-over-5400-pandit-employees-refuse-to-join-duty-in-valley/article65524482.ece