Explained: How minority killings in the Valley are forcing Kashmiri Pandits to flee to Jammu

The situation is growing tenser in the Valley, with Kashmiri Pandit employees not letting up in their demand of leaving the transit colonies...

The situation is growing tenser in the Valley, with Kashmiri Pandit employees not letting up in their demand of leaving the transit colonies for Jammu while targeted killings by terrorists continue unabated.

The demands to be relocated to Jammu, at the cost of putting a jobs package for them by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at risk of failing, became fiercer and louder even as terrorists gunned down a bank manager hailing from Rajasthan and a brick kiln worker from Bihar within 10 hours on Thursday.

Many Kashmiri Pandit government employees staged a protest in Srinagar, shouting slogans and demanding to leave the Valley. Colonies in Anantnag, Kulgam, Budgam, Ganderbal, Baramulla and Kupwara also witnessed similar agitations, with the protesters demanding for safer relocation to Jammu.

Sources told The Hindu that there were some bids by employees to leave their flats for Jammu, but were stopped. “As part of mass migration and resignation, we tried to leave the Mattan transit camp but were disallowed by the security personnel at the gates,” a Pandit employee, residing in the Mattan camp in Anantnag, was quoted as saying by The Hindu.

Why is there this demand to be shifted to Jammu? Why are Kashmiri Pandits opting for Jammu? We attempt to answer these questions.

Fear in the Valley

The targeted killings of minority and migrants civilians by terrorists has caused Kashmiri Pandits — over 4,000 of them — in the Valley to fear for their lives.

Since the beginning of May, there have been nine attacks on those belonging to the minority community and migrants. On Thursday, terrorists carried out two killings — one of the bank manager hailing from Rajasthan and another on a Bihar migrant identified as Dilkush Kumar.

CCTV visuals showed a lone gunman rushing into the Ellaquai Dehati Bank (EDB) branch at Arreh village and firing point-blank at the bank manager, Vijay Beniwal, from Hanumangarh. Beniwal, who had taken charge at the branch just four days ago, was critically wounded and rushed to a hospital where doctors declared him dead.

In the second attack, the brick kiln worker was among two labourers targeted by gunmen at Magraypora village of Chadoora in central Kashmir’s Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir police said.

Both the labourers were rushed to hospital where one of them, identified as Dilkhush Kumar, a resident of Arnia in Bihar, succumbed to injuries.

These attacks came after a 36-year-old school teacher, Rajni Bala, was shot dead outside her school at Gopalpora village, about 23 km from Arreh on Tuesday morning.

Prior to this, a 52-year-old man, identified as Ranjit Singh was killed while three others were injured on 17 May after terrorists lobbed a grenade inside a newly-opened wine shop in the Dewan Bagh area in Baramulla district.

On 12 May, Rahul Bhat, a government employee, was gunned down by terrorists inside the Tehsil office in Chadoora town in central Kashmir’s Budgam district. He had got the job of a clerk under the special employment package for migrants in 2010-11.

Leaving the Valley

The attacks have left the Kashmiri Pandit community in the Valley wary and worried for their lives and have been demanding for relocation.

Since the killing of Rahul Bhat on 12 May, many of them have staged protests, demanding that the Jammu and Kashmir administration shift them out of the Valley.

These protests have intensified over the past few days — with several of them staging sit-ins at various spots, chanting anti-Lieutenant Governor (LG) slogans.

On Thursday, Deccan Herald reported that several fleeing Kashmiri Pandit employees and their families were being stopped at several police checkpoints on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

Another Kashmiri Pandit employee said at the special checkpoints on the highway, policemen were checking identity proofs of people and if they are found to be Pandits, they were sent back to transit camps.

NDTV reported that to stop the Kashmiri Pandit community from leaving, the administration had put up barricades and locked gates to transit camps.

Safety in Jammu

Most of the Kashmiri Pandit employees fleeing the Valley are moving to Jammu. This is because they feel relatively safer in numbers.

The Census of 2011 recorded the Muslim population at 85.67 lakh — 68.31 per cent of the total population of 125.41 lakh (1.25 crore) — and the Hindu population at 35.66 lakh (28.43 per cent of the total).The Census data shows that the Hindu population is concentrated mainly in the Jammu region, constituting 65 per cent of the population.

During the mass exodus of the 1990s, the Kashmiri Pandits moved to Jammu first and lived in refugee camps. As the exile lasted longer, many Kashmir Pandits sold their properties in Kashmir purchased houses and lands in Jammu — making it their home.

Today, Jammu is home to many Kashmiri Pandits, but they are still very different from the people of Jammu itself.

In light of the situation presently, many Kashmiri Pandits are now wanting to move to Jammu, a move that is not favoured by the administration. They fear it would be a repeat of the situation in the 1990s.

With inputs from agencies

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