Around 6,000 migrant Kashmiri Pandits are working in Kashmir under PM package

All minority community members, migrant Kashmiri Pandits and non-local government officials working in Kashmir will be posted in eight safe zones in Kashmir. The eight zones, according to sources, will be the headquarters of eight districts in the Valley.

The decision regarding eight safe zones was made a few days back by the J&K government. The decision was endorsed at a meeting called by Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on June 3 to discuss the spate of targeted killings in Kashmir. The meeting was attended by NSA Ajit Doval, RAW chief, J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, heads of CRPF, BSF, J&K Police and IB chief.

The decision has come in the wake of protests by migrant Kashmiri Pandits demanding to be relocated after two migrant employees were shot dead in targeted attacks. On May 12, Rahul Bhat, a PM package employee was shot dead in Tehsil office Chadoora in Budgam and Rajni Bala, a teacher was shot dead on May 31 in Kulgam. In another targeted attack, a bank manager hailing from Rajasthan and a brick kiln worker from Bihar were shot dead by suspected militants.

Around 6,000 migrant Kashmiri Pandits are working in Kashmir under the PM package. Some have been provided accommodation by the government in camps in Ganderbal, Budgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam. Others live on rent. Most of the migrant Pandit employees living on rent have left Kashmir in the wake of targeted attacks.

Sanjay Raina, a migrant Pandit employee who lives at a camp in Anantnag, said the government has decided to place migrant employees in district headquarters in eight districts in Kashmir.

“The decision has been taken without our consent,” he said. “ They want to post us in deputy commissioner’s offices in eight districts. That is not acceptable to us."

He said it proves the government is not bothered about their safety. “It’s not about our postings,” he said. “We have to go to markets for groceries, medicine and our children have to attend school. What about that?”

He said all migrant employees living in camps will continue their protests. “Those who were living on rent, about have left for Jammu,’’ he said. He said the police have not sealed the camps but increased security in and around more frisking points.

He said for emergencies they have placed an ambulance and if anybody needs medicine he is provided after he requests it in writing. “Two doctors have been posted inside the camp for 360 people,” he said.

The president of the migrant employees camp at Haal in Pulwama, Arvind, said for the safety of their lives many migrant Pandits have returned to Jammu. He said they want to be relocated for some time only. “It may be three months or more, but until the situation gets better we want to relocate,’’ he said.

“Our children’s education is suffering. My children go to school under security,’’ he said. “ Kashmir is our birthplace and we have friends and relations here. How can we desert it, but right now the situation is not good.”

In the last 18 months, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed 55 civilian killings, with 35 and 20 among them gunned down in 2021 and till 2nd June of this year respectively.

According to sources, many residents of the camps have also returned to Jammu due to fears of getting killed.

The J&K government had met the agitating migrant Pandit employees to call off their protests and promised to place them in safer locations, but the protesters have refused to budge from their demand of relocation. The Home Ministry and the J&K administration, however, have refused to relocate the migrant employees, arguing they can't act as facilitators to another exodus of minority communities from Kashmir like in the 90s.

In March 2021, in a written reply to a question in Parliament, the Ministry of Home Affairs had stated that out of 6,000 sanctioned posts, nearly 3,800 migrant candidates have returned to Kashmir over the past few years to take up government jobs under the PM's package. After the abrogation of Article 370, 520 migrant candidates returned to Kashmir to take up such jobs, it said.