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Home still eludes Kashmiri Pandits

Chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted on Thursday: "Today (Thursday) marks another year of an incomplete #Kashmir. Need to redouble efforts to facilitate the return of #Pandits to their rightful homes." Arun Joshi reports.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2012 00:22 IST
Arun Joshi

Chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted on Thursday: "Today (Thursday) marks another year of an incomplete #Kashmir. Need to redouble efforts to facilitate the return of #Pandits to their rightful homes."

Despite the appeal of the chief minister to the Pandits to return to their homeland, Jammu and Kashmir continues to be "incomplete".

Why? Because the Pandits are afraid of returning. For the past 22 years, not a single family has returned to the land of their forefathers despite packages and promises by the high and mighty.

On Thursday the community observed "Holocaust day". It was on this day in 1990 that the horror-filled slogan "bhattan (Kashmiri Pandits), quit Kashmir" was broadcast on loudspeakers.

"This was the end of our stay in the Valley. Thousands of Hindus fled overnight," recalled Agni Shekhar, convener of the Panun Kashmir, a leading organisation of the Kashmiri Pandit migrants. Those were the times of horror that have become "permanent scars on the soul of the community members".

Approximately, 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits fled the valley after they experienced the selective killings in 1989-90, and later following the massacres of community members in Sangrampora, Budgam (March 1997), Wandhama (January 1998), and Nadimarg (March 2003).

Though all politicians of Kashmir including separatists Sayed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had said "Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits", now just 800 Pandit families are left in the valley.

"It's a fact that not a single family has returned to the valley," admitted an officer. This is despite the fact that 1,441 (out of 2,148 selected) Kashmiri Pandits joined government jobs under the special package of Rs 1,650 crore announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008.

He had declared, "They deserve to lead a life of dignity and honour in the land of their forefathers where they belong."