Pandit Settlements: It's Jammu Vs Kashmir Again

11 April 2015

Srinagar: It is deja  vu 2008 in Jammu and Kashmir. The purported composite townships for migrant pandits have divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir on regional and religious lines akin to 2008 when people of both regions launched two separate agitations for and against the transfer of 39.88 hectares of forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). While separatists have launched a fresh bout of agitation against the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government against composite townships in the Valley, Kashmiri pandits and saffron outfits have upped the ante in Jammu demanding the arrest of separatists for alleged mass killings. The Kashmir valley observed a shutdown on Saturday after a call by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) against townships. Shops and business establishments remained closed and public transport was off the roads. 'Kashmiris cannot remain silent spectators to the conspiracies being hatched to divide people in the name of faith. Construction of Israeli type settlements would promote only hatred. JKLF will organise a 30-hour-long symbolic hunger strike and seminar on April 18 and 19 against these conspiracies', said Mohammad Yasin Malik JKLF, chairman. What, however, triggered another controversy was a statement made by a senior minister of the Mufti Cabinet, who termed Saturday's hartal as part of a composite culture. 'This (Hartal) is part of a composite culture. Mufti Sahab has already made a statement (on the issue of pandits)', said Syed Altaf Bukhari, J&K minister of roads and buildings. Agitation politics notwithstanding, Kashmiri pandits and saffron outfits have also stepped up their offensive in Jammu demanding strong action against separatists for allegedly opposing the return of migrants to the Valley. 'Mass murderers and perpetrators of terrorist violence against the community need to be tried in fast track courts and brought to justice, which would work as a big confidence building measure', said Virender Raina, national spokesperson of Panun Kashmir, an apex body of Kashmiri migrant pandits. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) too has joined the chorus saying they would launch a massive campaign across the country to inform people about the designs of those separatists who are against the return of Pandits. 'We will go to the people across the country over this issue. Centre should not be misled by the rulers of the state and show their girt to implement their plans', said Rama Kant Dubey, VHP patron in J&K. Protests rocked Jammu and Delhi against the separatists for opposing the townships for the pandits in the valley. Scores of people were raising slogans and demanding action against these elements. The issue seemed to have polarized Jammu and Kashmir on religious and regional lines with people in both Jammu and valley launching protests akin to Amarnath land row Police figures reveal the Amarnath land agitation claimed 51 civilians in Kashmir and nine in Jammu. More than 979 people were injured in Kashmir and 494 in Jammu. As many as 333 policemen and paramilitary soldiers were also injured during the agitation across the state. The land agitation was also responsible for the fall of Ghulam Nabi Azad led government as his alliance partner PDP withdrew support forcing him to put in his papers. The agitation had started after people in Jammu demadned restoration of the 39.88 hectares of forest land to SASB which was earlier transferred to SASB through a cabinet decision. But after Kashmir erupted against the deal, the then Ghulam Nabi Azad led government cancelled the deal. It however angered the people in Jammu which launched a counter agitation for restoring the land to SASB. After two months of deadlock, the government 'set aside the land for the exclusive use by the SASB'.