Kashmiri Pandits: View: Is Kashmir seeing the start of another Pandit exodus, a mini one this time?

Following eight targeted killings by terrorists in the past 26 days, television news channels are broadcasting images of the estimated 4,000 Kashmiri Pandits (currently occupying transit camps in different districts of the valley as part of the Prime Minister’s programme) who are agitating to be allowed to leave and return to Jammu. Their demand “We don’t want to be the bali ka bakra” (sacrificial lambs for the government’s resettlement program) is getting louder and louder. Just like their suggestion that policy makers in Delhi and Raj Bhavan in Srinagar who argue that things are improving and will soon be back to normal should try to dispense with security and move into the valley alone!

The only consolation, if any at all, is that any exodus will not number in the hundreds of thousands, as happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to the MHA (Ministry of the Interior ), some 64,827 Kashmiri Pandit families had fled the valley in the early 1990s following attempted genocide and ethnic cleansing by terrorists. This time there are only a few thousand left in the valley. around 6,000 and which had entered under the Prime Minister’s Employment Scheme of 2009 and the Prime Minister’s Development Scheme of 2015.

This number was expected to increase following the repeal of Section 370 on August 5, 2019, under which the former state had for decades been guaranteed a special status through a degree of autonomy and the right to legislate for its permanent status. residents who have been granted privileges in terms of residence, property, education and government jobs, which is not available in the valley to citizens of other parts of India.

This special status has now been revoked following the repeal of Section 370. However, the process of resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits (which started with the Prime Minister’s jobs program in 2009 and intensified under the Prime Minister’s Development Program in 2015) and reintegration has been affected by the wave of targeted killings by terrorists in recent years. The killings are not just about Kashmiri pundits and policemen or artists like Ambreen Bhat who was producing and posting videos of herself singing on social media, angering terrorists who wanted to dictate what a woman should or should not do.

The latest murder on June 2 (captured by CCTV) is that of a bank manager Vijay Kumar who the terrorists said was “punished” for applying for a residence certificate from the J&K administration. If Vijay Kumar had indeed applied for a certificate of domicile following the repeal of Section 370, it implies that confidential information is being leaked to terrorists by some of the lower echelons of the J&K administration.

Within seven days of Vijay Kuar’s transfer as manager of Arreah branch of Ellaquai Dehati bank, CCTV showed a guy in jeans looking out the front door to check if the new BM was sitting on his chair, then leaving but returning. minutes later to pull out a hidden gun and shoot it over the counter. What was surprising was that when this happened around 10:50 a.m. there was apparently no security for a branch belonging to Ellaquai Dehati Bank (the regional rural bank headquartered in Srinagar), which is jointly owned by the central government, the J&K administration and the


And all this within 24 hours of the administration of J&K (the Union Territory is under the rule of the President, which means the Lieutenant Governor is in charge) solemnly announcing that officials belonging to the minority Hindu community of J&K would be moved by June 6 out of remote areas and to district headquarters where safety outside of work and residence would hopefully be much better!

Each targeted killing intensifies the understandable apprehension and fear in the minds of J&K’s minorities. Former Director General of Police (DGP) J&K, MSP Vaid has been quoted on TV news channels as saying the cycle of fear can be broken if Kashmiri Pandits and other Hindus are temporarily relocated at the district headquarters where it would be easier for the army and the cops to secure the places of work and residence, in this case the camps where they stay. However, this can only be a temporary detention arrangement to give the government time to improve its intelligence so that it can anticipate targeted killings and suppress the climate of fear. The government must play a proactive role so that elections can be held as soon as possible and a democratic government is restored after a vacuum of about four years.

The murder of Vijay Kumar is the eighth in the last 26 days. On May 7, a J&K police officer, Ghulam Hassan Dar, was killed in a militant attack near the Aura Bridge in Srinagar. On May 12, a Kashmiri pandit Rahul Bhat was shot dead after working for weeks at the tehsil office inside Budgam while constantly begging the tax collector to be transferred for security reasons to the district headquarters. . On May 17, a hand grenade was thrown at a wine shop inside Baramulla and owner Ranjit Singh was killed. On May 21, J&K Police Sub-Inspector Shafiullah Quadri was shot dead outside his residence in Srinagar and his 7-year-old daughter was injured when she ran towards the body of her seriously injured father. On May 25, a Muslim artist Ambreen Bhat was shot dead outside her home for the “crime” of recording and reposting her singing videos, with some online trolls celebrating the murder by asking her to “dance now in hell”. A 10-year-old nephew was shot in the arm during the attack on her. On the morning of 31 May, Dalit schoolteacher Rajni Bala was shot dead just outside Gopalparo Public School, about 13 km from Kulgam district headquarters. On June 2, the morning murder of banker Vijay Kumar was followed by the nighttime murder of a Hindu brickyard worker.

Hopefully the government will come up with a clear strategy that will end the climate of fear and see the establishment of a democratic Naya and Kashmir.

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