Muslims Too Can Live In Township For Kashmiri Pandits

27 April 2015
India Today
Abhishek Bhalla

New Delhi: Clearing the air around the composite township plan for displaced Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have said that the proposal is not exclusively for Pandits, but for Kashmiri Muslims also. Soon after the government announced the township plan, separatists had accused the Centre of creating ghettos for Pandits. A home ministry official has termed the allegation as 'propaganda' by the separatists. 'If Muslims want, they can buy property with their own resources and live there (in the composite townships). Since it's a rehabilitation scheme for displaced Kashmiri Pandits, the grant will only be given to them and at least 50 per cent of the houses will be reserved for them,' the official said. According to the proposal sent by the Jammu and Kashmir government to the Centre, Pandits will be given Rs.20 lakh, with which they can purchase a flat in the township. Home Ministry sources said nothing in the plan stated that these townships will be only for Kashmiri Pandits. The government is aiming to rehabilitate nearly 10,000 displaced Kashmiri Pandit families. As per the proposal, 2,500 families will be rehabilitated in each of these townships. Till now, Srinagar and Anantnag are the two towns, which have been identified to build the composite township. Sources said if land were acquired elsewhere, these townships could be built there. 'We are planning to build three-four townships in the Valley. Things are at a very nascent stage. Firstly, the state government has to acquire the land to move forward with the scheme,' the home ministry official said. The PDP-led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir did not waste much time in moving towards the BJP's agenda of rehabilitating Kashmiri Pandits. J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had assured Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh earlier this month that the state government would soon acquire land to build composite townships for displaced Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir Valley. Sayeed told the Union home minister that his government would expedite the return of Kashmiri Pandit community to the Valley with dignity and honour as 'the cultural milieu without them remained incomplete'. The return of nearly 62,000 Kashmiri Pandit families, who fled the Valley in the wake of militancy more than two decades ago, was in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the BJP-PDP government in the state. The CMP stated that protecting and fostering ethnic and religious diversity by ensuring the return of Kashmiri Pandits with dignity is based on their rights as state subjects. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had written to the previous Omar Abdullah government, asking it to identify land for such migrants. This was followed by another communication to Governor N.N. Vohra.