Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who turned 84 on Sunday, in a rare gesture batted for Pandits, Kashmir's minority community who faced a mass migration in 1990s, and assured them the valley Muslims' support.
Geelani has vehemently opposed the government's move to demolish 18 residential houses of migrant Pandits in Srinagar's old city.
"Omer Abdullah politicises the issue of migrants, but at the same time one of his MLAs is influencing local authorities to demolish their residential houses without serving any notice to their proprietors," Geelani said.
Geelani's statement has come after a group of Pandits approached him with a complaint that local authorities were demolishing houses of the minority community at the old city's Habba Kadal area. The area was once a hub of Pandit community, which witnessed a mass migration in 1990s after an armed rebellion broke out in state.
Describing the Pandit community "as a part of the society", Geelani said: "We share the responsibility to protect the property and lands of those, who migrated outside the state."
Most Pandits blame militant groups and their threat letters for their migration in the early nineties.
However, Geelani's fresh statement has come as a major assurance to the community, which is planning to return to the valley.
The state government is also working on a number of schemes and projects to ensure return of Pandits to their roots.
The government this year increased assistance package from Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 20-25 lakh and promised a government job per family for those living in the valley.
In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced Rs 1,867-crore package for those Pandits who migrated from Kashmir valley.
The package aimed at accommodating 6,000 Pandit youths in state and offered Rs 7.5 lakh financial assistance to families intending to return.
For rural Pandit population, the package offered a waiver of interest on loans. The migrants are entitled to cash assistance for re-cultivation of agriculture and horticulture land up to Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1.50 lakh, respectively.
The prime minister's package, however, did not yielded expected results with only 1,446 youth opting for jobs in four years.
However, Geelani has accused the administration of "failing to protect the community."
"The administration is morally and legally bound to protect life and property of the minority community. However, it has failed to do so and proved a biggest threat for people," said Geelani.
Invoking Islam, Geelani said clandestine demolishing of Pandit houses conveys a wrong message that minorities are not safe in Muslim-dominated state.
"I assured full moral support and won't play politics over the issue. It is the greatness of our religion and as per commandments of Islam that we are obliged to honour minorities," he said.
The Pandit delegation has thanked Geelani for his moral support.