Much has been made of the fact that a few Kashmiri Pandit families have returned to the Valley recently. Large sections of the media have reported that Kashmiri Pandits are returning in response to the rehabilitation package announced by the prime minister on April 25. But the story, it appears, is misleading.
The fact is, families came back on April 22, three days before Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit. And it appears they did so because they were informed that their ancestral houses were in danger of being demolished. These houses are in an area reportedly shortlisted for a bus terminus.
The Pandits demanded answers from the local administration as to why their land was being used for a project without their being notified.
Verinag, a retired medical assistant who used to live in Kolapur mohalla in Verinag, is furious. “The government is talking of rehabilitation on the one hand, and appropriating our property on the other,” he told Hindustan Times.
“We have come to save our property from the government’s illegal action,” Lal said. “Our visit has no link whatsoever with the Prime Minister’s package,” he said.
He pointed out that the PM announced the package on April 25, three days after they arrived at their ancestral village.
Kanta Koul, a mother of three, brought her ailing husband Sundari Lal to the village instead of taking him to Delhi for treatment when she learnt that a bus stand was to come up on their property. “I sold my valuables instead of land to marry off one of my daughters. Now the government wants to dispossess me of my land and home,” she said.
Local MLA Ghulam Ahmad Mir has reportedly told them they will be given land in compensation, but the residents are not pleased. Rattan Lal asked: “Why can’t they construct the bus stand over that land.”
Several Kashmiri Pandit families fled the village when insurgency reared its head in the Valley in the ’80s. They shifted to Jammu, where most live in a Kashmiri Pandit locality called Durga Nagar, on the outskirts of Jammu.