JAMMU — Kashmiri Pandit government employees demanding relocation outside the Kashmir Valley in the wake of targeted killings by militants, suspended their 310 days long strike, saying they were “surrendering” as authorities had “stopped” their salaries.
The protesters comprised Kashmiri Pandits working in different government departments under a prime minister’s employment package.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration has neither accepted nor rejected the demand but the protest had to be suspended as stopping of salaries is “choking us financially”, protesters affiliated to the All Migrant (Displaced) Employees Association Kashmir (AMEAK) said.
Last year in May, following the killing of their colleagues Rahul Bhat and Rajini Bala by militants, many had also moved to Jammu from the Kashmir division of the Union Territory. While Bhat was shot dead inside his office in central Kashmir’s Budgam on May 12, Bala, a school teacher, was gunned down in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on May 31 last year.
The employees said the core committee of AMEAK will meet to take a decision over resuming their duties in the Kashmir Valley.
“We have unanimously decided to suspend the ongoing agitation and are surrendering before the government. We have projected our demand for relocation but the government neither accepted nor rejected our demand,” senior member of AMEAK Ruban Saproo told reporters.
He said since Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha had time and again assured a secure atmosphere to them in the Kashmir Valley, the core committee of the organisation decided to suspend the agitation and wait for the government’s response.
Rohit Raina, an AMEAK member, said that “we have only suspended the protest and the next course of action will be decided by the core committee of AMEAK”.
“Our only concern for which we had fled the Valley is our security,” he said, accusing the administration of twisting arms by stopping their salaries.
The killing of Kashmiri Pandit Sanjay Sharma by militants in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 27 reflects the ground situation but “we hope that the government will ensure our security in the Valley”, Raina said.
Neha, who was part of the protest, said they are left with no option but to “surrender” before the government after it “stopped their salaries”.
“We do not feel safe there (in Kashmir) but nobody is listening to us. The government exploited the employees by stopping our salaries and choking us financially,” she said.
RK Bhat, the president of Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj (YAIKS), an organisation of Kashmiri Pandits, urged Kashmiri Muslims to come forward to ensure the security of minority Hindus living in the Valley.
“The real custodian of ensuring the safety and security of the miniscule Kashmiri Pandit population in the Valley is the majority community and they have to ensure it to maintain real Kashmiriyat. Kashmiriyat is meaningless until and unless Kashmiri civil leaders, political leaders and religious preachers do not publicly and consistently denounce killings of Pandits,” Bhat told reporters here.
He said Kashmiri Pandits belonged to Kashmir and the central government should involve grassroot level leadership of the community for preparing a blueprint for their return and rehabilitation in the Valley.
“We hope the J&K Reorganization Bill, 2019, will end our miseries and reconnect our lost roots and ancestral motherland soon. We hope the process of delimitation and new arrangements should make (Kashmiri) Pandits politically empowered democratically,” he said.
Bhat also appealed to various Kashmiri Pandit groups to unite for their rights.
“At this crucial time when our own people are again being killed, we have to rise above party lines, personal interests and affiliations to form a ‘joint action committee’ of all (Kashmiri) Pandit organisations globally and work for comprehensive rehabilitation of the entire community,” he said.
He said the community needs to be united and speak in one voice for a dignified return to their roots in the Valley. — (PTI)