Are Kashmiri Pandits pigeons and Kashmiri Muslims cats? They are. That is, if we believe the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. She used the analogy while defending her government’s decision to settle what she called “transit accommodations” in Valley and force them to go back to their ancestral villages.
“Is it possible to settle Kashmiri Pandits directly in the village? God willing, I will bring them back with respect and honour to live together. When situation becomes normal they can go to their villages,” she said in her address in the Assembly. “This time, however, we cannot throw them like pigeons before the cats. How is it possible?”
The analogy made people angry. The local media played up the story. The opposition parties and the separatist groups reacted sharply.
“Pigeon and cat statement speaks of Mehbooba’s mental slavery. She can now say anything to appease her masters in Delhi,” Hurriyat G chairman Syed Ali Geelani said. “Muslim Kashmiris have always ensured safety and security of Kashmiri Pandits who are a part and parcel of our society”.
Geelani blamed the Army of playing the role of cats in Kashmir. “Indian armed forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police are playing the role of cats in the state,” Geelani said, “It is they who have selectively killed and tortured Muslims.”
Similarly, the state’s major opposition party National Conference issued a scathing statement: “Mehbooba Mufti is the chief minister of this state and we expect a basic amount of wisdom and restraint from her,” said the party’s spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu. “She should know that both Kashmiri Muslims as well as Kashmiri Pandits have been the victims of violence and she cannot portray an entire community as culprits and demons. This is extremely regrettable and tragic on her part”.
However, Muslims were not the only ones who took offense, Pandits were also miffed. “Mehbooba should make it clear who is the cat and who is the pigeon in this analogy? Is Kashmiri Pandit community pigeon?” Vinod Pandit, chairman, All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC) said. “Is she addressing Kashmiri Pandit community as pigeons after 26 years of exile?”
In her long speech, Mehbooba, however, tried to clear the air on the Kashmiri Pandit and Sainik colonies. She said Sainik colonies were not meant to settle non-J&K soldiers in the state. “I want to clear that the Sainik colonies are for state subjects only. The Sainik colony is meant for the ex-servicemen state subjects. The society under which the colony is being proposed was inaugurated by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1975,” she said.
On Kashmiri Pandit resettlement, Mehbooba defended the decision to settle the returning members of the community in composite townships. She called these townships the “transit accommodations”.
“Kashmiri Pandits will live in these colonies and once the situation gets better they can go and live anywhere they want to,” said Mehbooba. “These will be transit accommodations where 50 percent of accommodation would be reserved for Pandits and the remaining 50 percent for people from other communities. We have to provide them breathing space till they feel confident to move to their original places. We can’t put pigeon before the cat.”