Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday empathised with migrant Kashmiri Pandits and heard their plight in Jammu during the Bharat Jodo Yatra; he also strongly pitched for the restoration of Statehood to J&K, which was split into two Union Territories in 2019 by the BJP-led Central government.
Mr. Gandhi interacted with a delegation of Kashmiri Pandits and patiently heard the issues raised by the community, including fresh migration in the wake of targeted killings by militants in the past two years in the Valley, and the J&K administration’s move to stall migrant Pandit employees’ salaries.
Mr. Gandhi said the community had been wronged by the J&K Lieutenant-Governor’s administration, and that he would write to the Prime Minister and raise the issues faced by the Pandit community in the Parliament.
“Injustice is being meted out to Kashmir Pandits by this government. I am surprised that their delegation was told by the L-G that they should not seek alms. Pandit employees are not demanding alms but are seeking their rights. You [the L-G] should seek forgiveness from them,” Mr. Gandhi said.
Amit Koul, a Pandit social activist, invited Mr. Gandhi to their Jagti township. Mr. Koul said the Pandit delegation also raised issues related to the implementation of the Prime Minister’s package as introduced by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister.
The delegation also criticised the BJP government’s approach towards the Pandit community. “These people [the BJP] use Kashmiri Pandits. They have only used our name, not done anything. Whenever elections come, they take the name of Kashmiri Pandits for votes,” another Pandit delegate said.
Mr. Gandhi asked the L-G administration “to fulfil the demands of Kashmiri Pandits, as what they demand is their due rights and not charity”.
On his arrival in Jammu city, Mr. Gandhi visited the Raghunath Temple and offered prayers. Scores of youngsters were waiting to receive Mr. Gandhi in Jammu. “All politicians have failed us. We are hopeful that the Congress will address our issues. The BJP talks a lot,” Shubham Gupta, a local, said.
Steering clear from making any comment on the revocation of the provisions of Article 370 in 2019, Mr. Gandhi instead underlined the need to restore Statehood and address the issue of unemployment, while describing these as “the main issues faced by J&K”.
“J&K has the highest level of unemployment in the country. The Congress party will fully support you and your [demand for] Statehood. We will use our full power. Statehood is your biggest issue. There is no big issue as big as Statehood. Your right has been snatched,” Mr. Gandhi said.
Mr. Gandhi, who heard from locals in Jammu, said the J&K administration had failed to hear the voices of locals. “The entire trade is being run by outsiders. The people of J&K watch them sitting haplessly. Youngsters aspire to become engineers, doctors and lawyers but they find they cannot,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi said the introduction of Agniveer scheme had further discouraged locals from being recruited into the Army.