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Kashmiri Pandits need own townships, says governor Satya Pal Malik

Several thousand Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley for safety to places like Jammu and other Indian cities in the early 1990s after the start of militancy and the targeted killing of some members of their community.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2019 07:24 IST
Sunetra Choudhury
Sunetra Choudhury
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kashmiri Pandits,J-K,Satya Pal Malik
The Governor said the locations for Pandit community boroughs had been identified and “we are working on those places.” (Photo by Waseem Andrabi/ Hindustan Times)

Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik has justified the concept of building separate townships for returning Pandits who have fled the Valley, saying locations for such boroughs had already been identified and work was underway to develop them.

“Separate township is not a matter of choice but out of necessity. We have to give them a nice place to stay, of their choice,” Malik said in an interview.

Malik noted that “all these people who claim to be major leaders” -- a reference to Kashmiri politicians -- received police and army protection.

Read the full interview here.

“Aren’t we protecting them? We will have to do the same for the Pandits,” he said. “The best course would have been that those who have taken away their homes invite them back. For this, Mehbooba and Omar, Farooq Sahab and Hurriyat should make an effort to convince their society to do this and leave their homes. That’s not my job, that’s their job. I am just trying to provide them an alternate accommodation so that they have a home, a school and security.”

It was a reference to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti, and Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference and the Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of separatist organisations.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will revive a plan to build secured camps to resettle Pandit community members in the Kashmir Valley, senior BJP leader Ram Madhav told Reuters in an interview earlier this month. “Their fundamental rights of returning to the Valley have to be respected. At the same time, we have to provide them proper security,” Madhav was quoted as saying.

Several thousand Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley for safety to places like Jammu and other Indian cities in the early 1990s after the start of militancy and the targeted killing of some members of their community. Many claim that their homes have been taken over by locals who coveted the properties.

“They{Kashmiri Pandits} come to the valley even now because they have grown up over here and they holiday here, can’t live without it.Their home can only be returned by those that snatched it and the feeling of unity has to be provided by the genuine political leadership over here. Do any of these leaders say this to them,” Malik, who has administered J&K since the collapse of a coalition government in June 2018, said.

He said the locations for Pandit community boroughs had been identified and “we are working on those places.”

“There are several {locations} that are there, in Pulwama and in other places. We won’t just settle them anywhere, but in nice places of their choice. We will give it to them for free,” he added.

NC spokesperson Nasir Aslam Wani said his party has always worked to get migrant pandits back to Kashmir. “In our government, we created job opportunities for the migrant pandits. Many of the pandit youth took those jobs and now live and work in Kashmir.”

PDP youth president Waheed ur Rehman Parra said the party has never opposed the reintegration of pandits who left the Valley. “It has to be social and political reintegration and homecoming. We are not in favour of settlement colonies but inclusive society. We are more than willing to extend our helping hands for such reconciliation and reintegration but for an inclusive society and Kashmir.”

Political analyst and retired professor of political sciences at Kashmir University and Central University of Kashmir Noor Ahmad Baba, however, said separate townships were not a good solution. “We have lived in harmony together. If they start living separately then they won’t fit well in the society. It will be more like a jail. We want society to evolve and people to cooperate with each other and live in harmony. This is when society becomes the security for the people. If you live in isolation, this will create a wedge and more insecurity.”

(With inputs by Mir Ehsan in Srinagar)

First Published: Jul 14, 2019 07:24 IST