'Make Return Of Pandits To J&K Part Of State Policy'
10 June 2007
The Times of India
Srinagar: One of the Prime Minister's Working Group on Jammu and Kashmir has suggested that the right of Kashmiri Pandits to return to the valley should be made a part of state policy. The working group on confidence building measures across the sections of society also suggested that a comprehensive package including jobs should be prepared for rehabilitation of the migrants. 'The rights of Kashmiri Pandit migrants to return to the places of their original residence should be recognised without any ambiguity and made a part of the state policy,' the working group, headed by Mohammad Hamid Ansari, also chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, said in a report. The report said the state and Central governments should consider providing jobs to Kashmiri Pandit migrants against retirement or available vacancies, for which certain organisations can be earmarked, including police, offices of heads of departments and civil secretariat which have in built security arrangements. The working group also advocated enhancing the one time compensation to jobless migrants. In view of limited job opportunities in the state, the Centre may in its offices located in Jammu and Kashmir accommodate Kashmiri Pandit candidates falling in the SRO-43 category (those seeking appointment on compassionate grounds), it said. The report also said the government should consider the setting up of a minorities commission in Jammu and Kashmir. On the issue of migrant properties, the group said an inventory of properties, including orchards of migrants, should be generated and examined for illegal occupation. Full compensation for the properties should be given once regaining of ownership is ruled out and the property is appropriately valued, it added. The working group said the properties of migrants in the Kashmir Valley that are occupied by security forces should make the owners eligible to receive adequate rent or compensation. Commenting on other relief measures for migrants, the group said all camp migrants should be provided living conditions and accommodation in accordance with the package already approved by the prime minister. A number of residential buildings are being constructed in Jammu. The same pattern should be followed for all camp migrants, it said. Also, the state government should not ignore the fact that a small number of Pandits continue to live in the Kashmir valley, the report said, adding it was necessary to ensure that they continue to live in peace and have ample opportunities of employment and education. Other issues regarding safeguarding their properties and assets should also be looked into, it said. In the long term, the group suggested that a dialogue be initiated with representatives of Kashmiri pandit migrants for a detailed scheme regarding the future rehabilitation, aid and assistance to camp migrants and those who are receiving cash, relief or grants. According the figures of the working group, the total population of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley before migration was about 3.5 lakh. While a majority migrated to Jammu and other parts of the country, about 18,000 stayed back as of 1997. Besides Kashmiri Pandits, there are migrants from other communities as well who have been forced to leave their homes due to violence. As many as 30,206 Hindu families, 2,120 Muslim families and 1,749 Sikhs are registered as migrants with the state government and are now living in Jammu.