Panic-stricken Kashmiri Pandit staff go on leave in J&K

The Jammu and Kahmir administration and the regional political parties made fervent appeals to Pandits not to consider any idea of migration.

Scores of Kashmiri Pandits abstained from attending offices and many went on a 10-day leave in the Valley on Friday, in the wake of targeted killings of two Pandits among seven other civilians in the past one week. Widespread protests were held in Jammu and Kahmir against the killings.

The Jammu and Kahmir administration and the regional political parties made fervent appeals to Pandits not to consider any idea of migration. Relief Commissioner A.K. Pandita assured them of “providing full security”. The Valley’s district commissioners were directed to reach out to the community.

Meanwhile, district commissioners have asked the Pandits living in designated enclaves in parts of the Valley to restrict their movement for the time being and avoid travelling to volatile pockets.

“I am frightened by the killings of innocent Pandits. We are shifting some of our family members to Jammu for the time being,” a Srinagar-based Kashmiri Pandit teacher, who went on a 10-day leave, said.

Several schools, especially those located in volatile pockets in the Valley, have offered Pandit employees 10 days of leave period, an official said.

Sanjay Tickoo, who heads the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), a body representing the voices of those who did not migrate from the Valley in the 1990s, said, “Neither those who stayed back since the 1990s nor those who returned to the Valley are feeling secure. Many are leaving out of fear. The condemnation here is nothing but a lip service.”

Hundreds of Sikhs, including the relatives of the deceased principal Supinder Kaur, carried the mortal remains on a stretcher and marched on the city’s streets demanding swift action against the perpetrators of the crime. They also held a sit-in in front of the Civil Secretariat in Srinagar.

The regional parties made a collective appeal to the Pandits not to consider migration. The BJP and several Jammu-based parties also organised street protests against the killings and demanded protection for the minorities.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, who visited a victim’s family, said, “We can’t let the perpetrators of these terror attacks succeed in their evil designs by driving you out. The overwhelmingly majority of us don’t want you to go. It is our prime responsibility, especially of the majority community, of the Valley to safeguard the lives of minorities.”

Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti said, “It was very painful to see two little kids of slain Kaur. What was their fault?” she said, after visiting the victim family.

Gupkar alliance meets

Meanwhile, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah chaired a meeting of the Gupkar alliance, an amalgam of regional parties, which was attended by Ms. Mufti also.

“The current situation in Jammu and Kashmir is the result of the failure of the policies of the Government. Whether it was demonetisation or removal of Article 370, these decisions were sold to the country as a solution to the problems of militancy and alienation in Kashmir,” Gupkar alliance spokesman M.Y. Tarigami said.

He said the onus to create a conducive security environment lied with the Centre. “We as responsible political parties will play our role to reduce the levels of suspicion and fear. While it is true that the majority of the civilian deaths in Kashmir have been Muslims, it does not absolve us of our responsibility to help those who belong to religious minorities. We appeal to those who may be considering fleeing the Valley to reconsider their decision,” he added.

Hurriyat condemns

Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also condemned the killings.

“The Hurriyat is deeply grieved by the shocking killing of Supinder Kaur and Deepak Chand, two teachers of our land, and also the cold-blooded murder of Yasir Ali from Jammu by forces. When militarisation is pursued as a state policy to handle a live and lingering conflict rather than seeking conflict resolution, bloodshed and loss of precious human lives is the consequence,” the Mirwaiz said.

He reiterated that the Hurriyat was for “a just resolution of the Kashmir conflict through peaceful means.”

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