Kashmiri Pandits on Sunday staged a protest in New Delhi demanding that the state and Centre take the community members into confidence before any decision on their return to the Valley and also pressed for setting up a commission to probe the “genocide” which led to their exodus.
Members of the community, who converged in large numbers at Jantar Mantar in the national capital, demanded the Jammu and Kashmir Government reopens prosecution cases against all those involved in the killing of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley following the outbreak of militancy.
Many of the protesters, who were wearing black T-shirts and bands, shouted slogans against Hurriyat Conference and separatist leaders and sought their arrest. They also carried placards demanding that Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, be abolished.
The general secretary of Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch, Manoj Bhan, said, “Whatever decision the Centre or the state government takes, they must talk to the Kashmiri Pandits first. No separatist should be allowed to intervene in matters relating to Kashmiri Pandits.”
They also called for setting up of a commission of inquiry to pinpoint responsibility on perpetrators of “genocide” against them.
Disapproving of comments made earlier by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed that only 10 to 15 per cent Kashmiri Pandits will choose to return to the Valley as most are well placed in various parts of the country, Bhan said that every member of the community wants to return to their homeland.
CBFC board member Ashoke Pandit, who had flown in from Mumbai to take part in the protest, said the Centre believing the words of Sayeed was “the biggest problem”.
“When I see all the terrorists on the streets of Kashmir, then what is the difference between the previous and this central government. The biggest problem is that the central government is trusting the Chief Minister… who says he is thankful to Pakistan after peaceful elections,” Pandit said.
Pandit demanded that Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik and other separatist leaders be arrested.
Another protester, Pankaj Dhar, said they want to go to their homeland but on their terms and authorities must ensure social and political security and economic empowerment of those who return.
Rashneek Kher of the Roots in Kashmir criticised the plan to build separate townships for the Pandits over an area of 50 acres saying it won’t suffice. “We refused to stay in clusters or ghettos spread over 50 acres. Whenever the government will call us, we will raise this issue before them,” Kher said.
The protesters termed as “inadequate” the rehabilitation package offered to displaced Kashmiri Pandits by the UPA-I Government in 2008.
That package included assistance of Rs 7.5 lakh per family for reconstruction of fully or partially damaged houses, assistance of Rs 2 lakh per family for dilapidated houses, assistance of Rs 7.5 lakh per family for purchase of a house in Group Housing Societies for those who have sold their properties during the turmoil in 1989.
“I will have to spend Rs 12.5 lakh even if I choose to clear only debris from the site where my home stood once. So, the package the previous government offered was inadequate. The present government should consider this issue,” Amal Magazine, whose Sringar house was set afire allegedly by militants in 1992, said.
Ashutosh Taploo, whose father Tikalal – a BJP leader -was killed in a militant attack in 1989, alleged that subsequent governments at Centre including the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA Government have ignored concerns of the people who suffered losses during the turmoil.
“No government in the past has even bothered to check where we have been living, in what conditions,” he complained. His mother, Sarla, insisted that the government must ensure adequate security measures for Pandits when they return.
The demonstrators also expressed disappointment at the central government for not doing enough for the Pandits after it assumed office. They held placards which read: “Modi Blinks, Hope Sinks”. “But this government only can do something for us,” another protester, Naveen Thusu, said.
“We don’t have any problem in moving to Kashmir provided provisions of Constitution of India are applied there,” Shiv Kumar Bhat, general secretary of Visthapit Sangharsh Samiti, said.
Besides, the Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch, Roots in Kashmir and Kashmir Visthapit Sangharsh Samiti, members of All India Kashmir Samaj and other outfits took part in the rally.
At present, there are about 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families in the country, who have moved from the Valley to Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country after the state was rocked by militancy in 1989.
The protesters claimed over 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits were “forced to flee” their homes. “Most of their properties were either destroyed or occupied, and usurped.
Over 10,000 KP homes and 400 temples were destroyed by terrorists and Jihadis who relentlessly targeted the community,” the protesters claimed in a statement.
Asked about the protest by Kashmiri Pandits over the issue of their re-settlement in the Valley, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiran Rijiju said, “Whenever any
delegation comes to the Home Ministry, the Ministry listens to them… When policy programme has not been finalised, I cannot say anything on this.”