Unease in Valley’s Pandit colonies but many resolve to stay back

‘I am in touch with my Muslim colleagues constantly. They have been helpful,’ says a teacher

Unease is palpable in the gated Sheikhpora Migrant Colony, home to around 75 migrant Pandits, in central Kashmir’s Budgam on Saturday. However, many Pandits have resolved not to migrate again, like the 1990s, in the face of fresh targeted killings by the militants earlier this week.

The gates of the colony, with a concrete boundary wall and concertina wires for additional security, are bolted from the inside. No outsider is allowed to enter the premises, not even milkmen for the time being. During the night, the flash lights ensure that any movement towards the colony is spotted.

“The Budgam authorities have promised that grocery and other essentials are delivered at the colony to avoid our movement outside for the time being. We have been advised against visiting volatile pockets, especially the old city,” said a Pandit, who returned to the Valley, in 2010 under the Prime Minister’s Return and Rehabilitation Scheme.

A Pandit teacher, who serves in a government school in the old city, said her family has decided to stay put here. “I am hopeful it won’t be a repeat of the 1990s. We are not shifting for now. We plan to stay back. I am in touch with my Muslim colleagues constantly. They have been helpful. We are safe but a sense of scare is unavoidable after militants targeted teachers inside a school recently,” the teacher said.

Plans of shifting to designated colonies

Many Pandits who lived in rented accommodations in Budgam’s Humhama area are also planning to shift to the designated colonies like in Sheikhpora. “We feel insecure living outside these colonies now,” another Pandit, who runs a business, said.

At least 3,800 Pandit migrants returned to the Valley since 2010, after taking up government jobs. They are putting up in different designated colonies in south, north and central Kashmir.

Security has been beefed up in all the colonies and the administration has reached out to the Pandits to address their security concerns, after militants killed a chemist, a Sikh principal and a teacher recently.

“The recent killings of minority civilians are a part of a well-planned terror action plot to drive out the remaining minorities in the Valley. We had already intimated the Centre that the launch of migrant distress sales portal will trigger an anti-minority feeling in some quarters, especially the land mafia,” Satish Mahaldar, Chairman of the Reconciliation Return and Rehabilitation of Migrants, said.

He said these attacks were a reminder that the counter insurgency strategies have failed. “The premature and triumphalist claims about normalcy in Kashmir got exposed. It needs great statesmanship to overcome the challenges,” Mr. Mahaldar said.

Won’t attend duties: Gurudawara Committee

The Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee here on Saturday decided that the employees from the minority community “won’t attend the duty unless the government assures their protection”.

“Despite inputs and incidents in the past targeting the minorities, the government didn’t provide any security to the community,” GPC general secretary Navtej Singh said.

He asked the J&K administration to “assure the minority community that they are safe in the Valley”. “The majority should also come forward and condemn the attacks.”

BJP leader and chairperson of the Waqf Development Committee Darakhshan Andrabi said, “We cannot allow radicals to repeat 1990 again. These target killings are shameful. More disgusting and criminal is the silence of so-called civil society and other responsible religious bodies of Kashmir. The government will eliminate each and every killer and destroy this hate module soon,” she said.

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