Kashmiri Pandits' plight National

We are continuously ignored by govt., say Pandits in Kashmir

Kashmiri pandits offer prayers at a temple in Haari Parbat, Srinagar. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

A report prepared by the Concerned Citizens’ Group, led by former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, has said Kashmiri Pandits, who did not migrate from the Kashmir Valley even at the peak of militancy, “were being continuously ignored in the plans of the government for the economic rehabilitation of the community.”

“Blaming the Bharatiya Janta (BJP) Party for their woes, the Kashmiri Pandit representative said that it used the plight of the Pandits in every election, including in the ongoing West Bengal Legislative Assembly election. However, it does nothing for them, especially for those who never migrated out of the Valley even in the worst of times,” the report said.

The report said Kashmiri Pandits have become very insecure in the last few years and “fear they could be targets of a false flag operation before the next general election in India.”

“Many alluded to the all-pervasive role of the intelligence agencies in the Valley with access to every militant group through what they called embedded militants. A Valley resident said that there was trouble brewing in the Valley already,” the report said.

It added, “Under the Centre’s Smart City project, several Hindu temples were being renovated on river banks. The Raghunath Temple in Srinagar’s Fateh Kadal area is one of the temples being renovated. In all this renovation activity, there was no involvement of Kashmiri Pandits. In fact, the security forces had been given a role in identifying temples to be renovated. Last year, the Rashtriya Rifles had carried out a survey of temples in South Kashmir. This is a dangerous thing. It makes the non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley vulnerable,” the report, quoting a non-migrant Pandit, said.

The Pandits informed the group that according to the 2011 census, there were 808 Kashmiri Pandit and Dogra Hindu families in the Valley. Out of these, 554 were Kashmiri Pandit families and even out of these, 64 families had left since 2011, leaving only 490 non-migrant Pandit families in the Valley. In addition, there were 3,900 migrant Kashmiri Pandits in camps who had been brought in from Jammu and elsewhere by offering them government employment.

The Concerned Citizens’ Group comprising Mr. Sinha, Sushobha Barve, (Executive Secretary, Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, Delhi), Wajahat Habibullah (Former Chairman of the Minorities Commission and the first Chief Information Commissioner of India), Air Vice Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak and Bharat Bhushan, former editor and independent journalist, visited the Valley from March 30 to April 2.

The group has suggested to the State and other political actors to “address the sense of defeat and anger amongst the Kashmiris by opening up the democratic space for people to express themselves and asked to restore the earlier policy of restraint and preventing ‘collateral damage’ during counter-insurgency operations by the security forces.

“Do not blow-up the homes of hapless villagers which are occupied forcibly by the militants for shelter or for using them tactically against the security forces. Allow civil society organisations to function by holding meetings, seminars, and discussions which would allow the people to vent their emotions and relieve the psychological pressure on them,” the group has suggested.

It also asked to allow journalists and media persons to freely report from the ground and demanded special attention to the physical safety and economic well-being of the minorities in Kashmir, especially the non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and Shias who have lived in peace in the Valley for centuries.

It added that the offices of the Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir be shifted from Delhi to the Union Territory so that the exercise is accountable and transparent.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 6:42:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/we-are-ignored-say-pandits-in-kashmir/article34336455.ece

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