Efforts to Help Migrant Pandits’ Return to Kashmir Gain Momentum

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Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq meets a delegation of migrant Kashmiri Pandits.

SRINAGAR (IANS) – As efforts at governmental and societal level for the return of migrant Kashmiri Pandits to their homes in the valley gain momentum, separatist Hurriyat leaders say they are ready to do whatever is needed to help too.

Satish Mahaldar, who asserts that he does not represent any political, social or religious group, told IANS: “I met Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of Hurriyat conference, on July 4 along with some other migrant Pandits.

“Mirwaiz Umar not only accepted that Kashmir and Kashmiri Muslims are incomplete without their Pandit brothers, but also assured to do whatever is needed to ensure our honourable and safe return.”

Mahaldar regretted that over the years, Kashmiri Pandits had been used as a ping pong ball on the political table of the country.

“Since the days of the previous NDA government, we had been hearing that the return of Pandits to their homes in the valley was the top priority of the government. What was actually done on the ground to ensure this? Nothing, except some cosmetic steps to keep us guessing and the community loitering in wilderness.

“The return of Pandits has to be an inclusive effort not an exclusive one by the state and central governments. The suffering of Kashmiris, be they Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists has been common. All of us have to realise this.

“Mirwaiz Umar has accepted and supported our demand that to begin with, migrant Pandits should be established to live at places in six districts of the valley.

“This is because in almost all cases, either houses have been sold or destroyed. Till each migrant Pandit family gets a foothold in the native village or Mohalla in towns and cities, we would live at these six places.

“It was also decided during the meeting with the Mirwaiz that inter-community committees would be formed those would include all religious, social groups, opinion leaders, traders etc to actively involve in the return and living of the migrants in the valley.

“Places where we plan to initially live would not be out of bound habitations. Alongside us, would live our Muslim and Sikh neighbours who already exist at places we plan to establish initial dwellings for the migrants,” Mahaldar said.

He was, however, bitter about the recent statement made by Ashwani Kumar Chungroo, BJP spokesman who said the separatists must keep their hands off the problems of Kashmiri Pandits.

“How can he say that? The Hurriyat is a stakeholder and every stakeholder needs to be taken on board if our honourable and safe return is to happen,” Mahaldar said.

Hardline senior separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani has also assured all possible support and help for the safe return of the migrants to Kashmir although he opposes separate townships for them.

“It would be like bringing them to live at places they can never mingle and co-exist with their Muslim brothers. Pandits return and live among us like the old times. Every Kashmiri Muslim stands for their honourable return,” Geelani said.

Governor Satya Pal Malik has, however, said the establishment of townships for migrant Pandits in the valley is a security requirement and mainstream political parties and the separatists must help this initiative.

All national and regional mainstream parties in Jammu and Kashmir have been supporting the safe return of Pandits to their homes in the valley although there have been differences of opinion as to whether this return should precede or proceed normalcy in Kashmir.

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