February 2020 News

Police Detain Kashmiri Pandit Activist At Srinagar Airport, 'advise' Him To Return To Delhi

28 February 2020
The Wire
Azaan Javaid

Srinagar: A Delhi-based Kashmiri Pandit activist was detained by local police at Srinagar airport Friday and 'advised' to return to New Delhi. Satish Mahaldar, chairman of the Reconciliation, Return and Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits (RRRKP), was travelling with Bollywood singer Saim Bhat for the launch of 'Saath Do', an initiative, they said, that is aimed at promoting peace. The activist said he was taken from the airport and brought to a local police station where he was allegedly made to sign a personal bond. 'I was supposed to leave on Saturday but the police advised me to leave today itself,' Mahaldar told ThePrint over phone while returning to the Srinagar airport. 'They asked me to sign a bond, asking me not to take part in any such activity. I informed that Saim was planning to visit his grandfather's grave in downtown Srinagar. They told me a crowd could get gathered in downtown which would lead to problems,' Mahaldar said. Bhat rejected the police's claims and described himself as a 'sufi ambassador' of Kashmir. 'I am not a kind of a person who will ask people to shout on the streets and create trouble. All we wanted is to talk about peace and communal harmony. We have seen enough,' said Bhat, who is still in Srinagar. Mahaldar and Bhat were to hold a press conference at the Kashmir Press Club, which was to be followed by a peace rally by members from the Kashmiri Muslim and Pandit communities. Bhat told ThePrint that entrepreneurs, artists and professionals from the Indian film industry were also expected to be part of the initiative. Organisers said they were given permission to hold the press meet, but police sources said the permission was subject to conditions. 'The administration informed them that they can hold the event if police grants them permission. There was no problem with the seminar, but a march is a different issue. We were not informed about it,' said a police source. Mahaldar, however, said it wasn't a march, but more a 'walk about peace'. 'All we wanted to do is take a walk, hug people, talk to them about peace and hand roses out to common folk of Kashmir. The mothers and and sisters of Kashmir are under tremendous pressure due to what they have suffered. We also wanted to talk to people about the return of Kashmiri Pandits and how we can together assure peace prevails in Kashmir,' he said. An advocate of rehabilitating Kashmiri Pandits across the Valley, Mahaldar called the 'foiling of the initiative' and his detention a conspiracy to sabotage the return of the community in the Valley.