Recent spate of killings may trigger fresh wave of migration of minority community from Kashmir Valley

At least 10 to 15 families, who had returned to Kashmir by availing the benefits under Rehabilitation Package announced by the Manmohan Singh govt in 2008, have already fled the Valley, say sources

Photo courtesy: Mir Zeeshan
Photo courtesy: Mir Zeeshan

Gulzar Bhat

The pictures of the lifeless bodies of two teachers lying in the well-manicured lawns of a government school gave the willies to Ajay Koul (34), a Kashmiri Pandit living in central Kashmir's Budgam district. Ever since the news about the killing of Supinder Kour and her colleague Deepak Chand in Eidgah area of Srinagar spread, Koul has been antsy, with his relatives in Jammu insisting that he should leave Kashmir Valley.

In 1990, Koul's family, like most members of his community, fled the Valley after hundreds of young men took to militancy. However, Koul returned to his homeland in 2012 after he got a government employment under the Prime Minister's Rehabilitation Package announced in 2008. A year later, Koul brought his parents too back to the Valley. They spent the genial summers together, and, save for the frosty winters, well- nigh resettled in the Valley.

However, the recent killings have put Koul in a quandary.

“I really don't know what to do. I'm unable to decide whether to stay here or leave for Jammu," says Koul.

The recent spate of targeted killings has shaken the community to the bone. Since Tuesday evening, militants have gunned down five persons including three members from the minority community. The Resistance Front (TRF), which according to the police, draws its cadre from Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), has owned the responsibility for these killings.

There are apprehensions that the developments may trigger a fresh wave of migration of the minority community out of the Valley.

Sources told National Herald that at least 10 to 15 families, who had returned to the Valley under the PM's Rehabilitation Package, have already fled the Valley.

As the ground situation in the Valley improved significantly with the number of militants dwindling, the then Prime Minister Manhoman Singh had in 2008 announced a Rehabilitation Package for the Kashmiri Pandits.

It was aimed to pave the way for the return of the displaced community. Under the package, an amount of Rs 750,000 was to be given to the Pandit families who had vended their properties in distress and were willing to return besides giving employment to 6000 youth. Secured accommodations were also constructed in different districts of the Valley for the community as part of the package.

In July this year, the government informed the Rajya Sabha that 3,841 Kashmiri migrants had secured employment under the package and moved back to the Valley.

Fear, however, continues to reign over the minority community in the Valley. Like Koul, many youth who had got jobs under the package have stopped going there. Akshay Pandit, a government employee posted in Pulwama, said that he apprised his department that he could not attend his duty for a few days.

“It seems a very dangerous situation similar to the 1990s. Over the past eight years, there has never been such a deep sense of insecurity among us,” he said.

He said that he would permanently leave his job, if the situation continues to remain the same.

Sources told National Herald that the administration in many areas had advised employees hailing from the minority community to stay indoors, while many had been moved to secured zones.

Amidst talk of fresh migration, National Conference vice president and former Chief Minister of J&K Omar Abdullah has appealed to the community to not leave their homes. “On my part, I’m making a heartfelt appeal to all those who will be thinking of leaving the Valley out of fear. Please do not. We cannot let the perpetrators of these terror attacks succeed in their designs by driving you out. The overwhelming majority of us don’t want you to go,” he tweeted.

The security situation in the Valley has deteriorated after the government put paid to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019. The sudden spurt in civilian killings laid bare the Central government’s claims of restoring normality in the Valley. According to official data, since January this year, at least 25 civilians were gunned down by militants across Kashmir.

Political observers believe that the August 5 move contributed to the rise of new militant groups in the Valley.

“If TRF is behind these attacks, it has emerged post August 5,” said a prominent political observer, who declined to be quoted.

He said that the absence of a political process has also contributed significantly to a further deterioration of the situation.

“People felt further alienated due to the security-centric and bureaucracy-centric governance,” he added.

(Names have been changed to protect identity)

Photo courtesy: Mir Zeeshan
Photo courtesy: Mir Zeeshan

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