Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has accepted the demand for creating separate zones for Kashmiri Pandits, a move that is seen by the vast majority in the Valley as the creation of “a State within a State.”
Mr. Sayeed assured Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday that his government would immediately start the process for creating the zones, which the Peoples Democratic Party describes as “composite townships.”
“The Chief Minister assured Mr. Singh that the State government would acquire and provide land at the earliest for composite townships in the Valley,” an official statement said.
With Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed accepting the demand for creating separate zones for Kashmiri Pandits, Peoples Democratic Party chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said here on Tuesday that the “composite townships” planned would not be an exclusive area for Kashmiri Pandits and would be open to all other communities. He said the percentage or other structural details of these townships had not yet been decided.
“We will build flats across rural Kashmir and around the city which anyone can buy, including Kashmiri Pandits. While the move is to bring back Kashmiri Pandits into the Valley, we will not create Pandit exclusive townships,” Mr. Akhtar told The Hindu.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had actively pursued the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley and the creation of separate zones for them. He had written to the previous Omar Abdullah government and J&K Governor N. N. Vohra asking for identification of land for rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.
Both the National Conference and the Congress, coalition partners in the last erstwhile government, said they disapproved of the move. During their time in the government, they had urged the Pandits to live with everyone else.
“We wanted Kashmiri Pandits to come back and live with everyone and not in separate zones. It is not a wise decision to create a State within a State,” J&K Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir said. “Such an exclusive township or satellite city will neither serve the purpose of reintegration of Kashmiri Pandits into society nor will it set a good precedent toward reconciliation.”
National Conference leader Ali Mohammad Sagar said the creation of such townships would “create further rift between Muslims and Pandits rather than bring them closer.” “It is a dangerous idea which defeats the very purpose of the return of Kashmiri Pandits. They should come back and live with everyone else, so that we have a Kashmir as we had then,” Mr. Sagar said.
Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said that while he always welcomed the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley, the creation of separate cities for them was unacceptable.
“The Pandits should come back to their own villages, towns and neighbourhoods and live where they want to like Sikhs and the Muslims do here. They are a part of Kashmir. But once the government is pushing for separate homelands and townships for them, it is a devious plan to create Israel-type settlements in Kashmir,” Mr. Geelani said.