Kashmiri Pandits stage protest, demand relocation from valley
Srinagar: Tension prevailed in various parts of Kashmir where angry Kashmiri Pandit government employees held protests on Friday demanding their relocation to safer places outside the valley, a day after the killing of minority community member Rahul Bhat by Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists.
The Sheikhpora camp, located in Budgam of central Kashmir, where Kashmiri pandit employees have been given make-shift accommodation, was the epicentre of these protests with people marching towards the airport and shouting slogans against the J-K administration.
A heavy posse of police personnel stopped the protesters after appeals requesting them to disperse failed to yield any result, leading to clashes during which the security forces had to resort to lathi-charge and firing teargas shells.
There were no reports of any injury but some purported pictures of people allegedly wounded during the police action circulated on social media.
The protestors raised slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir administration and demanded that Lt Governor Manoj Sinha should come and assure them about their safety. However, the Lt Governor was in Sopore attending a function at that time.
His office tweeted that the Lt Governor had met the relatives of Bhat and "assured justice to the family".
"In this hour of grief, the government stands firmly with Rahul's family. Terrorists and their supporters will have to pay a very heavy price for their heinous act," it said.
Besides protests in Sheikhpora, Kashmir pandit employees at Vessu, Qazigund and Mattan also held demonstrations and threatened to resign en-masse, alleging the government had failed to provide adequate security to the community members who were provided employment under the Prime Minister's package for the displaced.
Bhat, 35, was shot dead by two Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists at his Tehsil office in Chadoora of Budgam district on Thursday.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, meanwhile, claimed that she has been placed under house arrest to stop her from visiting Budgam to express solidarity with the protesting Kashmiri Pandits.
In a tweet, Mufti said she was put under house arrest as the BJP did not want Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits to empathise with each other's pain.
"Wanted to visit Budgam to express my solidarity with Kashmiri Pandits protesting against GOIs failure to protect them. Have been put under house arrest as the fact that Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits empathise with each other's pain doesn't fit into their vicious communal narrative," the PDP chief said.
Police officials, however, refused to comment on Mufti's claim. Later, in a video message, Mufti urged the majority community in the valley to stand by the minorities.
"While the central government is playing a game of pitting Hindus against Muslims to hide its failures and presenting them as the biggest enemies of each other, Jammu and Kashmir is the only state where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists are living together as one," Mufti said.
"So, it is the duty of all people of Jammu and Kashmir to stand together with those who live among us -- be it Kashmiri Pandits or Sikh brothers, like the way we had protected their lives and properties in 1947 when Gandhiji also had seen a ray of hope from Kashmir at that time," she added.
Mufti also urged the people to uphold Jammu and Kashmir's legacy of brotherhood and unity.
"We have to stand with our minorities, and so, I appeal to all the people to strongly advocate Hindu-Muslim brotherhood across all the mosques on the occasion of Friday congregational prayers.
"We need to give a message to the whole country of J-K's brotherhood and its history that we are a secular state and a united people so that the government does not get a chance to defame Muslims," Mufti said.
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