The Centre’s plan to rehabilitate displaced Kashmiri Pandit families back in Kashmir is being stiffly opposed by all a united front of the three main separatist leaders of Jammu and Kashmir.
Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, though ideologically separated, have come together against the BJP-PDP government’s efforts of establishing Pandit colonies.
After a meeting at Geelani’s house, that lasted 90 minutes, the trio have decided to launch an agitation in the Valley on May 26 and 27.
The separatist leaders from left to right, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Kashmir Media Service
They have called for a complete shutdown on Thursday and “peaceful protests” after Friday prayers.
The separatists, rather surprisingly, claim that the rehabilitation plan is an RSS agenda to “change the demography” of the state.
Ironically, a change in demography actually happened during the height of terrorism in Kashmir in the 1990s when Pandits were forced to flee their homes and leave behind their established businesses or risk getting killed.
A group of Kashmiri Pandits at a protest.
Yet the separatists, whose sole agenda has been to seek a free Kashmir, claim that a return of Pandits is an RSS ploy.
The Centre recently identified three sites, including one in Baramulla district, for the building colonies for the displaced Kashmiri populace who wish to return to the Valley.
According to an estimate, around one lakh Kashmiri Pandit families fled the state in 1990s. Today there are around 62,000 registered Kashmiri Pandit families of which some 20,000 live in Delhi-NCR.
A boy walks past a dilapidated house of a Kashmiri Pandit family which fled the Valley at the height of terrorism.
Jammu and Kashmir, Hurriyat (M) Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said that the government was making attempts to suppress the “struggle” of Kashmiris, “change their religious (Muslim) identity” and “change the Muslim-majority character” of J&K.
In their joint statement the Separatists exhorted the local populace to “rise to defend their existence, individuality and the disputed status of the Kashmir”.
They urged the locals to “start an effective struggle against the dangerous plans of RSS in Kashmir”.
It is noteworthy that this is the second time since 2008 when the three main separatist leaders have joined hands. The last time they did was in opposition to the then PDP-Congress government decision to hand over a piece of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. That protest crippled the state for a long time. It is expected that this time too there will be a repeat of the 2008. The government has denied that the colonies will be exclusively for Pandits.