SRINAGAR: Separatist groups in Kashmir Wednesday claimed ""victory" after the Union Home ministry backtracked from its proposal of building separate townships for migrant Pandits in the Valley.
A day after the home ministry told Lok Sabha that there is no proposal for settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, pro-Pakistan Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Geelani, said it is the “victory of the endeavour, unity and brotherhood of the Kashmiri nation and defeat of the communal mindset.”
"The cancellation of separate townships is not the victory or defeat of any particular section of the society but it is the victory of the centuries old brotherhood of the whole Kashmiri Nation. Kashmir is not any Hindu-Muslim dispute but it is the issue of the right to self determination of a nation in which Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Christen live like brothers,” Geelani said.
The union home minister, Rajnath Singh, had earlier said the J&K chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed promised him to earmark land for building the townships for over 2 lakh Pandits who migrated to different parts of the country at the onset of armed insurgency in early nineties.
The announcement had snowballed into a controversy with the prominent civil society groups in the Valley as well as the opposition led by National Conference accusing Mufti-led coalition government of doing a sell-out before the BJP.
With the momentum against the "ghettoization" of the minority Hindu community building up in the Muslim majority Valley, the separatist leaders threatened to hit the streets over the controversial decision.
The PDP leaders did firefighting in order to contain the heat with talks of 50 percent reservation for Kashmiri Muslims proposed for such townships.
However, the latest announcement that such no such proposal exists comes as a rebuff to the state government from the Centre, not the first one though.
Earlier, the BJP led government at the Centre told the parliament that there was no plan for opening up new routes along the LoC, something promised by the coalition partners in their alliance agenda, causing much embarrassment to the government.
On Wednesday, Geelani claimed that "all formalities" for separate townships were completed "from Delhi to Srinagar."
"Mufti Sayeed had assured the allotment of land to Rajnath Singh but the united stand of the resistance leadership over this issue dissipated the Israeli pattern of policies of New Delhi and they now understood that the entire Kashmiri nation including the Pandit brothers will not allow anybody to divide the state on religious lines,” Geelani said.
JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik termed the Centre's decision as "endorsement of the collective message" of the people of Kashmir. “I wish and I pray that the statement issued by the ministry of home affairs is correct and would not be changed in future,” Malik told a wire agency.
He said the people of all religions in Kashmir including Kashmiri Pandits made it clear that fragmentation of society on the basis of religion was unacceptable.
“Through marches, protest sit-ins, demonstrations, seminars and hunger strikes, the Muslims, Pandits, Sikhs and Christians in Kashmir with unanimity gave one voice that they want to live together in the land which is known for communal harmony and brotherhood.”
Moderate Hurriyat led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq welcomed the move, saying that the government must devise strategy so that the migrant Pandits return to their own places of residence, "Separate townships will make them (Kashmiri Pandits) vulnerable to the machinations of the state. They must return and live with us," a spokesperson of the Hurriyat said.
However, the Centre has asked the state government to enhance monthly cash relief for Pandits from May 1 this year, a move seen as to keep the minority community in ‘good humour’
Under the new package, a migrant family will get INR 2500 as relief per person to a maximum of INR 10,000. They were earlier getting cash assistance of Rs 1650 per person with the maximum limit of Rs 6600.
According to official figures, 62,000 families including Sikhs migrated to Jammu and others parts of India when the rebellion broke out in Kashmir. "About 40,668 registered Kashmiri migrant families are residing in Jammu; about 19,338 registered Kashmiri migrant families are living in Delhi and about 2,000 families are settled in other states,” the home ministry said.