The National Commission for Minorities has written to the Centre, seeking minority status for Kashmiri Pandits, many of whom have been forced out of their homes in the Kashmir Valley, following threats by militants.
Announcing this to the media here on Thursday, the newly appointed member of the commission, Ajaib Singh, said though logically speaking, Kashmiri Pandits could not be identified with the minorities, seeing their plight, the commission sought the special status for them. This would entitle them to avail of the numerous schemes of the commission and might help improve their economic condition, particularly of those families that had migrated from the Valley, he added.
Singh said the commission had also asked the Centre to make concerted efforts for rehabilitation of the displaced families. Efforts also should be made to ensure the safe return of the displaced Kashmiri Pandit families, he added.
Create awareness about schemes
After taking charge of his assignment early this month, Singh, who was till recently serving as professor of the adult education department of Panjab University, went about acquainting himself with the numerous schemes the commission had for the benefit of the minorities.
"To my surprise, I found that a lot of funds which were given to the states under various schemes came back to the central government at the end of each financial year as the states, including Punjab, had failed to utilise these. The states must create an awareness among the people about the schemes of the commission," he added.
He said that due to lack of awareness, the minority communities were not even availing themselves of the scholarships that the commission offered for education of children. He said this benefit could also be availed online and directly from the commission.
Singh also held a meeting with deputy commissioner Rajat Aggarwal in which he urged the district head to create an awareness of the schemes being offered by the commission for the minorities.
Seeks Sarabjit's release
Singh met Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit Singh, who is on a death row and is currently in a Pakistani jail. He assured her that the commission had taken up her case and had even written to the external affairs minister.
"Hopefully, we will see him back home by Diwali," he said.
Punjab's minority record
Singh expressed satisfaction with the state of minorities in Punjab. He pointed out that while going through the records of the commission he had not come across any major case related to any form of atrocities being committed on the minority communities.
However, Singh, who has come in place of former PPCC chief HS Hanspal, as a Sikh member of the commission, has already received reports of certain Sikh farmers of Uttar Pradesh being forced out of their land, which they had been tilling for the past three decades or more.
"A few farmers met me and complained that an MLA of the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh was trying to deprive them of their landholdings. I have taken up the case with the state government," he added.
Similarly, he recently met a group of farmers from Gujarat, who also complained that they were being forced out of their agricultural land by the government. The commission as well as the Punjab chief minister had taken up the matter with the Gujarat government, he said.