Pandits Renew Homeland Demand

27 December 2009
The Telegraph (Kolkata)


Srinagar: An umbrella group of some Kashmiri Pandit organisations today passed a resolution demanding a homeland like the Union territory of Chandigarh. The move by Panun Kashmir comes days after a working group on Jammu and Kashmir formed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recommended greater autonomy. “You have the National Conference (the state’s ruling party) pursuing its agenda for autonomy and the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) batting for self-rule. Then why cannot the Centre give us our homeland?” Panun Kashmir president Agnishekhar said at a convention of the group in Jammu to mark 19 years of the homeland demand. While the call for the proposed homeland - making up around half of the Valley’s area - has been made before, the demand that it be should be like Chandigarh marks a new turn in the campaign. Agnishekhar said the homeland would not be for the Pandits alone and anybody could live there. Today’s meeting was attended by Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the BJP chief minister of Madhya Pradesh whose Assembly passed a resolution in July this year backing the homeland demand. The BJP backs the Pandits’ cause. Support for the demand also came from former Jammu and Kashmir governor S.K. Sinha, who told the convention today that the “whole nation needs to apologise to Kashmiri Pandits because we have not done what we should have for them”. He was referring to the community being forced out of the Valley by militants.