Governor Malik for separate Pandit townships in Kashmir

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SRINAGAR: Governor Satya Pal Malik has said the migrant Kashmiri Pandits would require separate townships of their choice and setting up such habitations is a “not a matter of choice, but out of necessity”.

Malik told English Daily Hindustan Times that the “best course would have been that those who have taken away their homes invite them back” and that is the job of the Kashmir leaders – Mehbooba and Omar, Farooq Sahab and Hurriyat, who should “make an effort to convince their society to do this and leave their homes.” This, Malik insisted is not his job.

“They come to the valley even now because they have grown up over here and they holiday here, can’t live without it,” Malik told the newspaper. “Their home can only be returned by those that snatched it and the feeling of unity has to be provided by the genuine political leadership over here. Do any of these leaders say this to them?”

Malik asserted that he is doing his bit. “I am just trying to provide them (Pandits) an alternate accommodation so that they have a home, a school and security,” Governor Malik was quoted saying. “Separate township is not a matter of choice but out of necessity. We have to give them a nice place to stay, of their choice.”

Governor said that the government has identified the places. “We are working on those places,” he was quoted saying. “There are several that are there, in Pulwama and in other places. We won’t just settle them anywhere but in nice places of their choice. We will give it to them for free.”

Governor’s thought process is line with the BJP that has reportedly revived the idea of secured settlements. Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav, earlier said his party is committed to the return of the migrant Kashmiri Pandits and their security.

“Their fundamental rights of returning to the valley have to be respected. At the same time, we have to provide them proper security,” Madhav was quoted saying in an interview to Reuters. He also said that BJPDP government had considered building either separate or mixed resettlement townships, but had been unable to make headway. “No consensus could be built around any one view,” he was quoted saying.

The news report said that in 2015 a rehabilitation blueprint emerged proposing “self-contained, heavily guarded colonies for returning Pandits, complete with schools, shopping malls, hospitals and playgrounds”. However, the plan fell flat as the alliance collapsed in early 2018. Now BJP says that when it returns to power in the state – not using any ally, it will revive the plan and start working on it.

Voices within majority Muslims and minority Kashmir Pandits say separate colonies may not be helpful in rehabilitating the displaced population. “Return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley is our priority and at present, the steps in this regard are being taken,” another BJP’s state secretary general leader Ashok Koul was quoted saying. “I cannot set any deadline but it is our priority and BJP will ensure their return.”

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