J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the separatist groups again got into the face off over separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits. While Mehbooba went to Kheerbhawani temple in North Kashmir’s Ganderbal district to join Kashmir Pandits for this annual religious event, separatists held a joint seminar in Srinagar to pledge resistance to “the Government’s plans to create exclusive Kashmiri Pandit settlements”.
The Government had earlier denied permission to the separatists to hold a joint event. So, the last minute acquiescence to the seminar came as a surprise. In political terms it balanced the CM’s wooing of the Pandits and the separatists giving vent to the Muslim anxiety over the apprehended designs to change Valley’s demography.
The analysts interpreted it in terms of Mehbooba’s political compulsions and the need to play it safe in view of the ongoing bye-election in Anantnag where CM is contesting to get elected to the Assembly after giving up her parliament seat to return to the state.
At Kheerbhawani, Mehbooba told visiting Pandit pilgrims about her government’s plans to bring the community back to Valley. She said she was working on creating a conducive environment for the community’s return.
“Kashmiri Pandits have been an important part of brotherhood in Kashmir. Kashmir is incomplete without them,” Mehbooba said adding the state government will take every measure to ensure the community’s safety in Kashmir. “We will provide the community the alternate transit accommodation, and as and when they feel like going back and permanently settling at their native places, they should go of their own choice and not by force”.
The CM said that the government will not force the Pandits to return to their old places in Kashmir as it appreciated the community’s security concerns.
In Srinagar, the chairmen of the two Hurriyat factions Syed Ali Shah Geelani and the Mirwaiz Moulvi Muhammad Umar Farooq spoke about their determination to foil any attempt to create separate Pandit colonies or a colony for ex-servicemen. The Timesnow and News X were, however, barred from covering the programme as “the channels didn’t report truth on Kashmir”.JKLF supremo Yasin Malik who over the past month has been busy uniting the separatist groups against the alleged demographic change could not attend the event due to his arrest a day before.
“People should be ready to resist conspiracies which are designed to change the demography of Kashmir,” Geelani said. “We have to be cautions of India’s plans to settle non-locals in the state. The pro-freedom camp is united. Now it is the turn of people, particularly youth, to be united and adhere to our program to foil conspiracies of India and its collaborators to change Muslim majority Kashmir into minority”.
Geelani, however, said that the separatists were not against the return of Kashmiri Pandits. ”Kashmir Pandits are welcome to return to their homeland. They are our brothers. But they should return to their respective homes, and not separate colonies,” he said. “If the government has announced giving Pandits Rs 20 lakh each for their rehabilitation, let them give them Rs 30 lakh, but they must be settled in their own houses”.
The hardliner said New Delhi has always conspired to alter Kashmir’s demography: “Demography of Jammu was changed by massacring over five lakh Muslims in 1947. People of Jammu region are reeling under fear of communal elements and 28000 Village Defence Committee members. A conspiracy has been hatched to settle 10 lakh soldiers in Kashmir. Even BJP admitted in the J&K Assembly that it is the right of non-locals to be settled permanently in Kashmir,” he said.
Mirwaiz, on the other hand, blamed “Hindutva forces and RSS including its late ideologue Shyama Prasad Mukherjee” for hatching conspiracy to change the demography of Kashmir”. He said the “so-called mainstream parties and self-styled Ulema were pursuing the cause of divisive forces and were a part of conspiracies in Kashmir”.
“Many of us including younger generation might not have even seen Kashmiri Pandits, but we will wholeheartedly welcome them,” Mirwaiz said adding that the separatists had no objection if Kashmiri Pandits ideologically supported India. “But can the government, by creating these walls of hatred, bring back communal harmony between Pandits and Muslims?”