SHEIKHPORA: Fear and anger were reflected on the faces of Kashmiri Pandit employees and their family members as they continued their protest on Saturday at Sheikhpora transit camp in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir against the killing of Rahul Bhat and demanding their relocation to safer places. outside the Kashmir valley.
A group of members of the security forces stood guard outside the camp, apparently for their protection. The demonstrators, however, claimed that security force personnel prevented them from holding a protest march.
The camp, which houses the families of Bhat and other Kashmiri pundits who were employed under the prime minister’s package in 2008, has become an epicenter of protests following the murder of Bhat, who was shot dead by terrorists in his office in Chadoora on Thursday.
Protesters have been demanding their relocation to safe environments in the wake of a spate of attacks against members of the minority community in the valley.
On Saturday, more than a hundred employees, men and women, sat under a large makeshift tent to shield themselves from the scorching heat prevailing across the valley, as they protested against Bhat’s murder and pushed for their demands to be accepted.
So far, they said, there were no visible signs of resolution of the problems. “This is the failure of both the central government and the union territory. This is the ninth murder (of members of minority communities), we face huge problems but there is no redress,” said Vimal, a Kashmiri pundit. PTI in the camp.
He said that for migrant employees to work freely, a safe and secure environment must be created. “There have to be foolproof security arrangements for us to be able to work. We cannot work like this, so we are planning to submit mass resignations,” Vimal said.
On Friday, there were reports of mass resignations by employees, especially in militancy-hit South Kashmir, but the government dismissed them.
Instead, he said, his service-related issues were addressed in a limited time within a week. Vimal, however, said the government’s intentions were unclear. While many paid tribute to Bhat (a photograph of him was placed on a table), several others launched slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir government and police.
A tricolor also placed on the table. The protesters got up and ran towards the main gate of the camp which the police have closed since Friday night. The protesters tried to open the door, but the police prevailed. A police vehicle was also brought in front of the gate to stop the march of the protesters.
The employees, who had been sitting on the main road connecting the district with Srinagar city and the airport on Friday, said they were tricked by police into leaving the road and were now “caged” inside the transit camp.
“The DIG (Central Kashmir) took us out of dharna with the assurance that the lieutenant governor would come to see us. However, the LG did not come. Instead he sent his chief secretary Nitishwar Kumar around 11pm” . Vimal said. “He (Kumar) had no solutions, no fix for our problems,” said one of the employees.
Sanjay Kumar, another employee, said reports about giving gun licenses to immigrant employees were “false.” The community has a solution to their problems: the government must temporarily relocate them to “safer places” until a safe atmosphere is created in the valley.
“For the time being, two years, three years, we should be relocated until they get the situation under control. They are doing nothing more than telling us that there is no provision to relocate them,” another community employee, Aparna. pandita, he said.
Kashmiri Pandits said they had never taken to the roads or raised their voices, but Bhat’s murder has “shocked” us.
“Do they want us dead? We will submit mass resignations as the government has totally failed because now employees are being killed inside their offices. Where is the security? Why is there no provision for us to be transferred out of Kashmir? The people you can come from Bihar and Maharashtra to work here, but we can’t leave,” he said.
They stated that their problems will continue as the government was “making us sacrificial lambs”. “Accept our mass resignations or do something to secure our lives. Move us to any other state in India. The government said they cannot accept our resignation or transfer us,” he said.
Another Kashmiri pundit, who did not want to be identified, said the government wants to create an atmosphere of fear. “They don’t want us to live happily here. We left our families, our children were living happily and studying well when they told us we would be rehabilitated. Is this what rehab is? Has Rahul Bhat been rehabilitated?” he said.
“Why are we not allowed to go to the press colony (in Srinagar) to protest the killing of Bhat and pay tribute to him? Why are we caged here? Are we stoners? Are we anti-national elements, terrorists? Yesterday we sat peacefully. The police are deliberately harassing us,” he said.
As the protest continued near the main gate, the entire transit camp, which is home to some 300 families, presented a bleak picture.
Many Kashmiri pundits, especially the elderly, were busy with their daily chores, but none of them seemed to be at peace. His faces betrayed their hearts that had longed to return to Kashmir for so long.
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