JAMMU — Alleging that Kashmiri Pandits are facing injustice at the hands of the government, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday asked Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to apologise to the community for telling the Prime Minister’s package employees that they should not seek alms.
Mr Gandhi made the statement shortly after a Kashmiri Pandit delegation called on him during his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Samba district earlier in the day and briefed him about their various issues including “targeted killings” by militants and the resultant protest by those employed under the prime minister’s package.
“Injustice is being meted to Kashmir Pandits by this government…this morning, a delegation of Kashmiri Pandits met me and briefed me about their issues. I was surprised to know that their delegation was told by the lieutenant governor that they should not seek alms,” Mr Gandhi told a gathering at the end of the day’s yatra at Satwari in Jammu.
Mr Gandhi said he wants to tell the lieutenant governor that they are not demanding alms but are seeking their rights. “You (LG) should seek forgiveness from them (Pandits),” he said.
Earlier, social activist Amit Koul, who was part of the delegation, said they have invited Mr Gandhi to their Jagti township along the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and that he is likely to visit the community on his way to Kashmir.
“We had a very good interaction with Mr Gandhi and we briefed him about the issues of the community, especially the Prime Minister’s package employees who were provided jobs by the previous UPA government led by Manmohan Singh. They are on protest over the past six months in Jammu and their salaries have been withheld,” Mr Koul told PTI after meeting Mr Gandhi.
Nearly 4,000 Kashmiri Pandits are working in different departments in Kashmir Valley after their selection under the prime minister’s employment package announced in 2008. The package has two major components — 6,000 jobs for the youth from the community and building as many accommodation units for the recruited employees.
However, many of the employees fled to Jammu after one of their colleagues, Rahul Bhat, was shot dead by militants inside his office in Budgam district on May 12 last year in what was described as a case of targeted killing. They are on a strike demanding their relocation out of the Valley.
“We also raised other issues of the community including the need for enhancement of relief. We requested him to visit our township Jagti or send a delegation but he assured that he will visit Jagti himself and raise their issues within and outside Parliament,” Mr Koul said.
Another member, Jitendra Kachroo, said he has come all the way from Uttar Pradesh, where he has settled after migrating from Kashmir, to meet Mr Gandhi with other members of the delegation.
“He (Gandhi) is a very nice human being and a very simple person. He patiently heard our issues and it was heartwarming that he had time to listen to us,” Mr Kachroo said.
He said they were initially supposed to meet him as a 13-member delegation but several more joined them and “we raised issues which the community is facing”.
Charging the BJP with using the community to further its political agenda, Mr Kachroo said, “They do not really mean to solve the problems of the Kashmiri Pandits because for them it is a political agenda to spread hate on the basis of religion.
“We used to live together in Kashmir — both Muslims and Hindus — as we shared culture, dressing, and even surnames. There was never such a type of atmosphere, and we all were living together (before the eruption of militancy and migration of the community),” he said. — (PTI)