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No Salaries For Kashmiri Pandits Sitting At Home: J&K LG Manoj Sinha To Kashmiri Pandit Protesters

A section of Kashmiri Pandit employees of Jammu and Kashmir government is protesting over security situation and killing of fellow Pandits.

LG Manoj Sinha
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Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Singh on Wednesday said there will be no salaries to Kashmiri Pandit employees who continue to hold protests.

Following tareting killings of minority Kashmiri Pandits employed with the J&K administration, a section of the Pandit employees have been holding protests and seeking transfers out of the Kashmir Valley. They cite the poor security situation in Kashmir as grounds for transfer.

Sinha, however, said that necessary security measures have been taken. He sent out a "loud and clear" message to Kashmiri Pandit protesters that no salary would be given to them if they continue to sit home in protest. The protest became intense after Rahul Bhat and Rajni Bhalla were kileld in May.

He said, "They are on a strike and I was in constant touch with them and made sincere efforts to address all their long-pending issues. Almost all of them were transferred to district headquarters in consultation with district commissioners, superintendents of police and other government functionaries."

Sinha's comment comes amid the ongoing protest by Kashmiri Pandit employees and Jammu-based reserved category employees who left the Valley for Jammu in May after Bhat and Rajni were killed. The protesting employees have been seeking relocation outside Kashmir.

What did LG Manoj Sinha say?

Sinha said that all necessary security arrangements have been made and most of the Kashmiri Pandit employees have been transferred to district headquarters.

Sinha, however, said some people are placed at tehsil headquarters and some in villages close to the city as those posted in the rural development department cannot be transferred to the city.

He said, "Minority employees will not be deployed alone in any office and it was decided that two to three more people will be stationed along with them. We have appointed officers in every district and one in Raj Bhavan to look after their grievances. They are listening to them and are looking for necessary steps to address their issues."

Sinha said there is only one genuine issue of concern which is of their accommodation.

He said, "Earlier, there were some issues related to land but it was cleared and tenders floated to complete the project for their accommodation at secured places. As many as 1,200 of them will be provided accommodation by April, and 1,800 more flats will be given during the next financial year."

"We have cleared their (protesting employees') salaries till August 31, but it cannot be done that they will be paid their salaries by sitting at their homes. This is a loud and clear message to them and they should listen and understand it."

Sinha said the J&K administration has full sympathy with the Kashmiri Pandit employees and is ready to provide them security or any other assistance. 

Referring to the protesting reserved category employees who are also camping in Jammu and demanding their relocation, Sinha  said, "They should also keep in mind that they are Kashmir division employees and cannot be transferred to Jammu."

However, he said the chief secretary has framed a committee to look into their demand. 

"And I assure them that if there is any chance, we will frame a policy accordingly," said Sinha. 

Fears of Kashmiri Pandits, comparisons to 1990

Despite the Jammu and Kashmira administration assuring them of security after every incident, Kashmiri Pandits have long said they fear for their lives in the current circumstances in Kashmir Valley.

Under a special package rolled out in 2009, Kashmiri Pandits have been provided employed in Jammu and Kashmir. However, a clause of the package says they have to work in Kashmir only and they cannot be relocated come what may. It is this clause that keeps these employees in Kashmir despite security threats and this is why they are protesting to be transferred to Jammu region.

"We are on strike for the past one month. We seek a safer place for work or relocation. When I ask my officer whether he is able to offer me a safer place for work, he says he is as helpless as me. In such a situation, what can I do except seek relocation as there is no safe place in the Valley," said Kashmiri Pandit employee Ashwani Sadhu to Outlook in June.

Kashmiri Pandits have also said that the targeted killings and atmosphere of insecurity reminds of them to 1990 when terrorist attacks drove hundreds of thousands of Pandits out of Valley in what's called Kashmiri Pandit Exodus.

Following the killing of well-known Kashmiri chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo last year, Outlook reported that people read it like a throwback to the 1990s.

Outlook at the time reported a number of Pandits, who over the years had returned to the Valley under the prime minister’s rehabilitation package and were working in different government departments, reading a dire message in Bindroo’s death. 

“Remember, in 1990, killing of prominent Kashmiri Pandits led to their migration from the Valley. You shouldn’t see Bindroo’s death like any other killing,” said Sanjay Tickoo, President, Kashmiri Pandit Sangresh Samithi, at the time.

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(With PTI inputs)

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