Has terror returned to haunt Kashmir? Spate of killings evoke 90s-like fears
08, Oct 2021 | CJP Team
Kashmiri Pandit families who are still living in the Valley find themselves in peril yet again. There have been a spate of terrorist attacks in the Union Territory, that appear to be targeting minorities and even Muslims who have paid the price of patriotism and secularism with their lives.
- On October 2, terrorists killed Majid Ahmad Gojri and Mohammad Shafi Dar for their alleged links with the security forces in Srinagar.
- On October 5, militants killed well known chemist and businessman, Makan Lal Bindroo at his shop in the high-security zone of the Iqbal Park area. Makhan Lal Bindroo, settled here since 1947, was shot along with Virendra Paswan a street food vendor and Mohammed Shafi Lone a resident of Naidkhai village, who headed Sumo Car Stand, an association of taxi owners in Shahgund village in Bandipora.
- On October 7, two teachers, Deepak Chand, a Kashmiri Pandit and Satinder Kour, a Sikh woman, became the latest to fall to bullets of militants.
All this has led Sanjay Tickoo, the president of Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) to wonder if the horrors of the early 90s are back. Taking to social media, Tickoo wrote, “1990 has come back in the valley for minorities. Only god will save us.”
1990 has come back in the valley for minorities. Only god will save us. Rest will enjoy cold breeze in the valley.
— sanjay tickoo Kashmir (@koolkashmir) October 7, 2021
In an exclusive interview to CJP secretary Teesta Setalvad, he said, “After the killing of Bindroo sahab (Makan Lal Bindroo) there has been a huge outpouring of grief and sorrow in the Valley. Everyone seems to be in pain.” He added, “I don’t know who has done it. I am not naming anyone or any country for these killings. I am saying there has to be a collective response to such killings. Otherwise the situation resembles that of the 1990 when large scale Pandit migration took place.”
CJP stands with the KPSS in seeking protection from terror groups for all Indians in Jammu and Kashmir, especially those hailing from persecuted minority groups – be they Kashmiri Pandit or Sikh. Memories of the forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s are still fresh, and the government must immediately restore security cover to these vulnerable people who appear to be the main target of terror groups aiming to destabilise the region. The long standing demand of these vulnerable communities for political and administrative rehabilitation in the Valley is also crucial. We also demand preservation of cultural and religious sites of these minorities in the Valley. Join CJP in this campaign as we stand with the Kashmiri Pandit and Sikh community in Jammu and Kashmir. To help us advocate for their safety and rights, please donate generously.
KPSS has been demanding security and employment for Kashmiri Pandit youth in the Valley, but despite a sustained campaign and two hunger strikes, his appeals have fallen on deaf ears. Even when officials did respond, it has been with hollow promises and minor reliefs.
CJP has always been at the forefront of demanding peace and justice for all Indians irrespective of their religion. In Kashmir, CJP has joined hands with the KPSS to demand justice for Kashmiri Pandits from time to time. The story of the forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits (KP) from the Kashmir valley in 1990 is well known. But what few people know is that even today, 808 KP families are still living in 242 locations spread across the Valley. At least 150 of these are Below Poverty Line (BPL) households where people struggle for food and medical care. Apart from economic challenges, over 500 KP youth who are eligible for government’s employment schemes are yet to be given these benefits. Earlier, the number was 600, but due to delays in implementation of the employment scheme, almost 100 of them have now crossed the age limit to be eligible! Security that was earlier provided to members of the community has now been withdrawn and Kashmiri Pandit families, especially vocal community leaders are now left to their own devices to protect themselves.
KPSS had, in multiple communications and memoranda, brought this to the attention of various authorities including successive Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers and sundry bureaucrats but alas… no concrete solution was offered to alleviate the suffering of the Kashmiri Pandit community.
In August 2020, CJP and KPSS launched an online petition urging the people of India to come together to appeal to the Central Government and Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha to walk the talk on alleviating suffering of these families. The petition may be read here.
The first fast-unto-death by members of KPSS led by president Sanjay Tickoo began on September 20, 2020. They demanded economic reliefs as well as protection for the vulnerable minority community in the Valley. The fast was called off ten days later, after Dr. Shahid Iqbal Choudhary (IAS), the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar met with Tickoo and other protesters at the protest site, and gave the group a written undertaking promising that all genuine demands will be followed up.
But when the administration failed to walk the talk, KPSS went on a second hunger strike in November 2020. They had listed the following points in their charter of demands:
- Extension of PM’s Job Package and apportionment of 500 posts / one job per family (preferably) criteria for 808 Non-Migrant Kashmiri Pandit / Kashmiri Hindu Families.
- DMRR&R deliberately delayed the process by more than four years as such give one-time age relaxation to all the over-age candidates’ w.e.f. 31.05.2016 (date of the judgment passed by Hon’ble High Court in OWP 1986/2013 titled Kashmiri Pandit Sanghrash Samiti and others vs. Union of India and others)
- Providing of Accommodation to all deserving Non-Migrant families under PM’s Relief and Rehabilitation Package
- Extension / providing of necessary financial assistance to the 808 Non-Migrant Kashmiri Pandit / Kashmiri Hindu families living in Kashmir Valley
- Extension of benefits of Migrant Welfare Fund to the Non-Migrant Kashmiri Pandits – Kashmiri Hindus living in Kashmir Valley.
- Constitution of Nodal Agency between UT Government including Relief Department headed by Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir with one member from KPSS Core Committee.
- Protection, Preservation and Restoration of Temples and other religious institutions belonging to the religious minority in Kashmir Valley.
This strike too was called off on the eleventh day, as KPSS president Sanjay Tickoo’s health had deteriorated to a critical point. However, the extreme steps taken by the community bore some fruit when in a small victory. The Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board extended the deadline for applying for various posts in different departments under the Prime Minister’s special package for Kashmiri Migrants and non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits. The previous deadline was December 21, 2020, but it was revised to January 5, 2021.
But the trials and tribulations of the Kashmiri Pandit community persist. Given how two of the people killed so far were respected members of the community, and others among the dead include people from vulnerable minorities and even patriotic and secular-minded Muslims, it appears, a lot more needs to be done to restore peace and stability in the region.
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