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Feature: Fear for life: Pandits want to flee from Kashmir to “safer places”

Malik Nisar and Sajad Hameed

“We wish to stay back in our homeland but the situation is not conducive. Our people are getting killed regularly. We were kept confined to one place and in such a choked environment it’s difficult to survive,” says 33-year-old Amit Bandoo, exhausted with the situation.

Amit had come to Kashmir five years back and was working in the education department. On Saturday afternoon he left Kashmir.

He lived in the rented accommodation of Indra Nagar locality of Srinagar with over a hundred Pandit families.

“We won’t return to Kashmir. We want relocate outside Kashmir valley because nothing is above your life. My ancestors were born here; they used to tell me the stories of that peaceful Kashmir, where everyone was living in harmony. The salary I used to get in Jammu was far better than what I got in Kashmir, but still, I accepted it only to fulfil the wish of my parents, who had the desire to be in their ancestral,” said emotionally drowned Amit.

Amit who had come to Kashmir to evade the miseries of the 90s and take a sigh of relief is now caught between deep and devil sea.

The recent killing of Kashmiri migrant Pandits in Kashmir has created the hopelessness, chaos, and confusion in the minds of thousands of Pandit families residing in transit camps and rented locations in various parts of Kashmir.

More than 350 families have left Kashmir in wake of back to the back killing of migrant Kashmiri Pandit employees and non-local labourers.

Authorities sealed the Indra Nagar location; Budgam transit camp and Baramulla where Pandits are residing for the past decades. Concertina wires and barricades were put in to prevent Pandits from leaving the area.

“I just want to tell one thing to the government, just tell me one place in Kashmir which is safe for Kashmiri Pandits or even for Kashmiri Muslims? This safe zone word is just to divert the issue,” Rajan Joshi presently staying in Mattan transit camp told Maktoob.

“In places like Indra Nagar, Ganderbal, Baramulla, and Pulwama where Pandit families are residing the restrictions are still in place,”

“Almost five hundred Pandit families are living on rent; the government was not able to provide them accommodation in these years. How can they take us to a safer zone? They are just exaggerating the issue from the last 12 years. They should allow us to move outside Kashmir until and unless the killing won’t stop and they should also provide security to everyone. Spending life like this is totally hell-bent” he added.

the authorities in J&K on the other hand has started posting Kashmiri Pandits teachers in government schools to “safer zones” in a bid to discourage their desire to leave the Kashmir valley following the string of target attacks on members of a minority community that left nine people dead in past one month.

Government has also directed all the departments to shift their Pandit employees working in the interiors of the valley’s 10 districts to the more secure headquarters.

The government order has also made it clear that the Lieutenant-Governor’s administration is not heeding the demand to relocate employees outside the Kashmir valley.

“Few families have fled but we were stopped without any reason and we are not allowed to go outside the transit camp. Kashmir is totally a war zone. They should send us on deputation for a few years then we can return once the situation becomes favourable. It seems we are kept as hostile,” said Ashwani Sandhu, working in R&B as a junior Engineer for the last ten years.

According to Economic Times “Kashmiri Pandith Sangharsh Samiti,” Chief Sanjay Tikoo said, “There is a silence here and no one knows who will be the next target. In the last three years, civil society has been deactivated in Kashmir. Otherwise, it too would have been on the spot and raised its voice. Now, who will do this? Everyone is afraid of the authorities,  if someone speaks then the PSA is waiting for them.”

“We are living as aliens. The fear of killing has annihilated everything and horror is visible everywhere. We are just waiting for the discharge certificates of our children otherwise we need nothing other than the safety of the family. It’s very much difficult to stay put,” says Anil Bhat, who is very much desperate to leave.

The KPSS has appealed to the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh high court to order the administration to move all the religious minorities to safer places outside Kashmir.

According to media reports, they are expected to get a reply from the court this week.

Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Vijay Kumar, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP), Central Kashmir Range, Sujit Kumar, and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Budgam, Tahir Saleem, declined to comment on the issue.

“I don’t know what future waits for us. Five years back I came to Kashmir with hope, but now that hope seems on the rope” Amit added. — Courtesy Maktoob Media

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