SHAFAQNA – Creating a new controversy in the Muslim majority district of Kashmir, the recently formed government has proposed the creation of a ‘separate township’ for Kashmiri Pandits, who left valley during the course of turmoil two decades ago.
“Establishing a separate township for Kashmiri Pandits is a move to divide people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Pro freedom leader Bilal Sadiqee told OnIslam.net.
He added that no one in Kashmir opposed the return of the Pandits to the valley. “Let them come and settle with the Muslims,” he added.
“It is a move to marginalize Muslims in valley and to divide us on communal lines with criminal intention,” Bilal added.
Controversy started after Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed accepted the demand to create separate zones for Kashmiri Pandits.
Peoples Democratic Party chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said that the “composite townships” planned would not be an exclusive area for Kashmiri Pandits and would be open to all other communities.
Alliance partners PDP-BJP have also spoken in different voices on composite townships for settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley.
The decision was criticized by Kashmiris as inviting divisions to the district.
“I was born in the year 1992 and when I grew up I was told that some families of Pandits were living in our village,” Junaid Akram of South Kashmir told OnIslam.net.
“I had opportunity to meet some of them at Jammu, but seeing the conditions of their property in the valley which they either sold or left unattended, tells that they will never return back.
He added, “I don’t see anything wrong in their return but they should be allowed to move freely and live in their own localities they belong to.”
“Kashmiri Pandits who lived with Muslims in this trouble torn valley up to 1990, but soon after violence erupted they left for Jammu and other places”, another Muslim youngster Zahid Peer told onislam.net.
“Kashmiris have never stopped them (KP’s) from settling again in valley but they never wishes so,” he added.
Inviting Pandits to return to their homes, opposition said that establishing separate clusters will create hatred among the two communities, risking more divisions in the district.
United Jihad Council (UJC), a Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) based amalgam of various militant groups warned against any attempt to settle Kashmiri Pandits in exclusive townships.
“We are not against the return of Kashmiri Pandits as they are part and parcel of our society. But any attempt to settle the community in separate habitats will neither be allowed by Kashmiri people nor by the Mujahedeen (militants),” UJC chairman Syed Salahuddin said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.
“Kashmiri Pandits are part and parcel of the traditional Kashmiri ethos and they would be reintegrated into their native place as a part of the society and not as an isolated community,” the statement added.
Salahuddin, who is also supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahedeen militant group, termed the settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in a separate township as a “deep rooted conspiracy” to change the “Muslim-majority character” of the state.
“Separate homeland for Kashmiri Pandits within the valley is a fascist forces’ agenda and we will not allow this to happen and will foil such a ploy with our might and unity,” the UJC Chairman said.
Separatist Organizations and opposition National Conference have criticized the new proposal of Mufti-led government and term it as a move to divide the people and pose security risks.
“We don’t believe in separate homeland and the National Conference does not support it,” NC General Secretary and former minister Ali Mohammad Sagar said, adding, “It should be accepted by the people. What is the purpose if it creates differences among the people of the valley?”
“Separatist groups were never against return of Kashmiri Pandits and have always appealed to KP’s (Kashmiri pandit) for their return to the valley”, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik said.
“We will not allow the government to build separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits. This is an Israeli strategy and RSS has taken inspiration from Israel,” JKLF Leader said.
“They want to create walls of hatred, spread fire and divide the people.”
“The creation of the so-called township for the particular community in this part of Kashmir is a deliberate move of the government of India to create a wedge among the Muslims and Hindus of Kashmir,” Yasin Malik said.
Expressing his dismay with the government’s proposal, Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani appealed to Pandit brothers to return to Kashmir and live under ‘composite culture’ with their Muslim brothers.
“We see that when a Pandit brother dies, his last rites are performed by Muslim brothers. Many of the Pandits are living and doing business across the valley,” he added.
Moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has also termed the government’s proposal as a ploy to divide the people of Kashmir on communal lines.
“Instead of dividing the people on communal lines, the government should take steps for the honourable return of Kashmiri Pandits,” Mirwaiz Umer Farooq told reporters.
He said, the amalgam would oppose any plans to “divide” the people of the state and such attempts would be resisted by “tooth and nail.”
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah expressed his opposition to state and central governments’ plans for building “composite townships” for Kashmiri Pandits, saying no one will support “ghettoization” in segregated and “inherently unsafe camps” in Kashmir Valley.
Omar, former Chief Minister of the state, tweeted, “Will someone please remind Mufti Mohammad Sayeed about his answer given to me during Governors address discussion regarding Jagti type townships in the Valley.”
“We will not let Kashmir become another Gaza and Palestine. We will not tolerate separate townships for the Pandit community in Kashmir,” Chairman Awami Ithehad Engineer Ab Rashid said, making it clear that he would welcome the return of the community to their native places.
“Kashmiri Pandits are welcome to return to their native places and live there peacefully with the majority Kashmiri Muslim community as they have been living for centuries, but we will not allow the creation of another Gaza within Kashmir,” he said.