Amid the outrage over the killing of a Kashmiri Pandit government employee Rahul Bhat by militants in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Thursday, which triggered massive protests by the community in both the regions of Jammu and Kashmir, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) is set to meet Lt Governor Manoj Sinha to seek secure postings for the minority community employees living in the Valley. The PAGD took the decision to call on
Sinha after its leaders held a meeting with some representatives of Kashmiri Pandits Saturday.
“We have sought appointment from the LT Governor,” M Y Tarigami, the CPI(M) leader and PAGD spokesperson, told The Indian Express. “We will meet him and take up the issue of the security of the members of the minority community with him.”
Tarigami said the Gupkar Alliance leaders held an “unscheduled meeting” Saturday after a delegation of the Kashmiri Pandit community members expressed their desire to meet them. “They said they want to meet us. So we decided to meet them together at Farooq (Abdullah) sahib’s residence. Mehbooba (Mufti) ji and Muzzaffar Shah sahib were also present in the meeting,” he said.
The Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference (NC), the Mehbooba Mufti-headed People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Muzzaffar Shah-led Awami National Conference besides Tarigami’s CPI(M) are the constituents of the PAGD, which was formed by Kashmir’s mainstream parties in 2020 to seek restoration of J&K’s statehood and special status under Article 370 and Article 35A, which were abrogated by the BJP-ruled Centre in August 2019.
This was the PAGD’s first meeting in more than two months. The Gupkar Alliance partners had last met on February 27 to discuss the Delimitation Commission’s draft report.
While as an alliance the PAGD has not spelt out its position on the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, its constituents have been calling for their dignified and peaceful return to the Valley. The relief and rehabilitation of the community had been undertaken in a significant manner during their respective tenures by both the NC-led and the PDP-led J&K governments in the past.
Referring to the Gupkar amalgam leaders’ meeting with the Kashmiri Pandit delegation, Tarigami said they expressed their desire to leave the Valley in the wake of Bhat’s killing. A clerk in the government’s revenue department posted at the Chadoora tehsil office, Bhat, in his 30s, was shot dead by militants inside his office. His killing led to massive protests by the community that demanded security for their members.
“They (delegation members) said they want to leave Kashmir,” Tarigami said. “We assured them that this is their home, their land.”
The PAGD spokesman claimed that on their assurance the delegation members said they would continue to stay in the Valley but sought postings at secure places. “We told them that we will bring their concerns to the notice of the government,” he said. “And that is why we have sought the appointment from the Lt Governor.”
Tarigami said Bhat’s killing has shaken Kashmiri Pandits and has “deflated” the Centre’s claims of normalcy in the Valley. “The responsibility lies with the government,” he said. “They (government) have created a narrative of normalcy in Kashmir but every now and then people are being killed.”
He said the PAGD leaders have appealed to the people of Kashmir to come forward and assure safety of Kashmiri Pandits living and working in the Valley. “We appeal to all shades of opinion, whether religious or social, and to the civil society and others to come forward, speak and work for the safety of the minority community members,” he said, adding “That is our tradition”.
In the past too, the Gupkar Alliance had accused the Narendra Modi-led central government of allegedly creating a “fake normalcy narrative” and seeking to “drive a wedge between different communities living in the Valley”.
“The Modi government has not only failed to improve the security situation in the Kashmir Valley but has created tension between communities,” the Alliance had said in October 2021 after militants killed seven people — including a prominent Kashmiri Pandit businessman M L Bindroo — in a string of attacks. “It has been shown without any doubt that neither demonetisation nor the removal of Article 370 have contributed to improving the security situation in J&K. In fact, some recent decisions of the Jammu & Kashmir administration have only served to heighten differences between the communities that otherwise were living peacefully amongst each other,” the PAGD had then added.