Separatists in Kashmir called for a shutdown and street protests on Wednesday against joint move of the Centre and J-K government to set up separate “composite townships” for displaced Kashmiri Pandits.
The decision to have separate townships was reached during a meeting between Union home minister Rajnath Singh and chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed in Delhi.
Sources said the Union home minister proposed Sayeed to provide land for these "composite townships".
Giving more details, state education minister Nayeem Akhter told HT that these townships "will not be community specific".
"We want return of Pandits with dignity. We will not stop those willing to return to their older properties. We want to have communities living next to each other. The migration of the community is a blot and it was migration of civilisation indeed.
"We have to provide space to those who do not own anything. We can't create composite culture in the air"
On Tuesday, Sayeed had informed Union minister Singh that his government will expedite return of Pandits to the Valley with dignity and honour, as the cultural milieu without them remains incomplete.
The common minumum programme, the ‘Alliance of agenda’, between PDP and BJP had called for “protecting and fostering ethnic and religious diversity by ensuring return of the Kashmiri Pandits and reintegrating them in the Kashmiri milieu.”
Meanwhile, hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani and JKLF chief Yasin Malik called for street protests on Friday to be followed by a daylong shutdown on April 11.
“The move is unfortunate and surprising. The issue of Pandits is being used to create state within state on the lines of Israel,” alleged 84-year-old Geelani.
“All tall claims of Sayeed made before and after the polls are falling flat as he is kneeling before New Delhi now and then. He already gave up his stand on AFSPA and political prisoners,” he added.
Asking Pandits to return to their original places, Geelani said, “Pandits are our brethren and our culture is incomplete without them.”
Threatening to oppose any move to have separate townships, Malik said, “We will not allow the RSS plan to materialise in Kashmir where it is creating walls of hatred rather than townships of friendship to divide people and the state on communal lines.”
Malik, while threatening to issue more protest programmes in the future, said, “Around 10,000 Pandits are living in the valley and many leading business establishments are run by them. Will this idea of ‘composite township’ shift these Pandits too and demolish temples and shift them too from the city. Is this definition of the composite culture?”
He asked the state government to restore old houses of Pandits. “Let them (Pandits) return to their old houses and restore real composite culture. They are equal citizens of the state and can purchase land according to their choice. They face no threat from us (separatists),” he added.
The JKLF is planning a prolonged agitation and will organise a sit-in after Friday prayers in Lal Chowk.
“If this is not stopped we will come up with fresh protest calendars. We are organizing seminars too,” said Malik.
The JKLF accused Sayeed of “materialising RSS plan on Kashmir”.
Hundreds of Pandit families fled the valley in the face of raging militancy in 1990s and are living a life of a migrant across the country.