Since May 12, when two unidentified gunmen barged into the tehsil office at Chadoora Budgam and killed 36 year old Rahul Bhat in front of his colleagues. Bhat who hailed from Kashmir but had migrated in 1990’s along with his family when he was young had secured job on migrant quota and was living at transit accommodation at Sheikhpora Budgam. Police say the militants of TRF/Lashkar were responsible for killing of Bhat to spread panic among the migrant pandits who are living at different transit accommodations across Kashmir and asked the community not to get scared by these attacks and promised security to them.
However, after the killing of Bhat, the employees of the community are in panic and holding a series of protests. They haven’t joined their duties and have projected the relocation as the main demand owing to the security scenario in Kashmir. Since January, there have been a series of targeted attacks on civilians, especially panchayat members and local policemen.
Few days ago, the protesting employees held their first meeting with J&K’s Lt Governor Manoj Sinha. This meeting however failed to break any ice despite the meeting being held in a cordial atmosphere. After coming out of the meeting the spokesman of the pandit delegation said the protest will go on.
The delegation of these employees comprising 25 people represented the migrant Pandit delegation said that in the meeting, J&K Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha assured us that all of our problems will be resolved. ,”We gave a memorandum to the Lt Governor. But our main demand is relocation to safer places. Till then the protest will go on,” said one of the delegates adding that this was the beginning of talks with the government.
“Our issues are genuine and hopefully in the next round of talks the ice could break and the government will accept our demands.”
After the killing of Rahul Bhat, a revenue official who was killed by militants inside tehsil office Chadoora on May 12, the employees are on strike demanding relocation from Kashmir.
Sandeep Kumar, a migrant Pandit employee, said that the first meeting was not successful…. “We are going to continue our agitation till the government fulfills the demands. After the killing of Bhat migrant employees fear for their lives and the families live in panic.”
Sandeep said the main demands of the community are relocation and repeal of bonds which the employees have to sign before getting the government job.
“The bond is just a violation of the Indian constitution. This bond system should be terminated.”
Soon after the meeting, the J&K government spokesman said the delegation apprised the Lt Governor of their various issues and concerns and sought his intervention for their early redressal. “The Lt Governor gave a patient hearing to the members of the delegation and assured them that the issues projected by them would be looked into earnestly for their redressal on priority.”
The spokesman said that the government will do everything possible to address their grievances.
Earlier Sinha had visited Sheikhpora transit camp last Sunday where hundreds of migrant employees were holding sit-in.
Lt Governor Manoj Sinha told the protesting employees that the government is taking their all issues seriously. “This time there is sincerity. All the posts for migrants have been almost filled and the housing accommodations are being constructed.”
Sinha said that the ecosystem of militancy is very strong in Kashmir. “I can’t say that there won’t be any incidents but we will try to ensure that there shouldn’t be any more incidents like this. Not only those who are using weapons are our target but all those who are part of this ecosystem are our target. We won’t stop till this entire ecosystem is destroyed.”
Sinha said that a lot of innocent people have been killed in Kashmir.”Now onwards we won’t tolerate the killing of innocent people.” He said that despite odd incidents of militancy the security forces have upper hand. Sinha further said that all efforts are being made to resolve problems of migrant pandit employees. “Everybody is concerned about you. Whether here or outside, several steps have already been taken by the government to solve the problems of migrant employees.”
Sinha also visited the family of Rahul Bhat in Jammu and met his wife and parents and assured every possible help. The J&K administration however told these employees that they should think of leaving the Valley as militants will be happy to see them leaving Kashmir. Infact the government asked these employees to face this challenge.
Avtar Krishan, a teacher, who lives at a migrant colony, Veervan Baramulla, said Kashmiri Pandit employees were panicking. “This is not how rehabilitation is done. If the government cannot protect a mere 5,000 employees, how will they ensure the safety of the whole community?”
J&K Employees’ Joint Action ( EJAC) president Mohamad Rafique Rather, demanded a probe into Bhat’s killing. “We want a high-level enquiry into the incident and adequate security at work places so that such things do not occur in future.”
He said that these employees should feel secure here in Kashmir.
After the killing of Bhat the employees held two big protests one towards Srinagar airport and another in the city. While they were proceeding towards the airport, the police used baton charge and tear smoke shelling on them.
The City Mayor and other politicians condemned the use of force on the migrant employees.
Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu condemned the use of force on protestors. “Using tear gas shells against protesting Kashmiri Pandits brothers and sisters is absolutely condemnable and unacceptable. Understand the concerns of safety and law and order factors — but could have been handled better. My unequivocal solidarity with them,” tweeted Mattu.
The government has already announced probe into the baton charge and said those people found responsible on using force on pandits will be punished
To make the lives of these employees comfortable, the government is spending crores on the construction of safe accommodations for them at different places, however, the killing has left them scared.
After the killing of Bhat, the government has taken several measures for the safety of these migrant employees.
Earlier, a delegation of PAGD leaders led by NC chief Farooq Abdullah had met Sinha and sought security for these employees and their families
BJP delegation had also met the J&K,’s Lt Governor that was led by BJP J&K President, Ravinder Raina. The Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha assured the delegation that the administration has taken necessary steps to ensure welfare and security of PM package employees and all concerns will be addressed in a time-bound manner.
“All the PM package employees will be posted at secure District and Tehsil Headquarters and Jammu Kashmir Police will ensure adequate security of employees and their family members,” said the Lt Governor to the delegation.
“It is a very sensitive and emotional moment for the entire administration and the nation, and we must stand united in the fight against terror. Two terrorists involved in the attack have been killed. We have given full freedom to the security forces and the remaining will be eliminated soon. Let me assure you, those behind plotting the attack and their supporters will be punished soon,” Lt Governor told the BJP delegation.
The Lt Governor has also constituted a special cell for PM package employees within LG Secretariat and Additional Secretary Akshay Labroo will be the nodal officer. The special cell will handle the grievances of PM package employees and it will coordinate with district administrations and other concerned departments to ensure the grievances of PM package employees are resolved at the earliest.
Despite these assurances, the employees feel insecure and think they along with their families could become “soft targets” as they have to work in public places that are very much insecure. “We will return once the situation improves. When politicians will move in Kashmir without security then only we will feel secure here. Otherwise the government should relocate us or accept our mass resignation,” said another migrant pandit employee.