There is controversy in Jammu and Kashmir over what a “composite township” for displaced Kashmiri Pandits means, after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh asked the state’s chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to provide land for such a settlement.
“The Union Home Minister asked the Chief Minister to provide land in the state for composite townships for Kashmiri Pandits. The Chief Minister assured the union Home Minister that the State Government will acquire and provide land at the earliest for composite townships in the Valley,” the Centre said in a statement yesterday after Mr Singh met Mr Sayeed in Delhi.
In Kashmir, questions are being asked on whether composite townships will exclusively house rehabilitated Kashmiri Pandits. About three lakh Pandits had left the Valley when the first wave of militancy began 25 years ago.
An independent legislator Engineer Rashid raised the issue in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly today, saying, “Pandits are welcome to return to Kashmir but the government won’t be allowed to build separate townships for them in the valley.”
Mr Mufti’s party, the ruling People’s Democratic Party, indicated that the proposed townships will not be meant exclusively for Kashmiri Pandits, but was not explicit. “What we have said is very clear. It is going to be a composite township, everybody must understand the meaning of the word composite – we are bound to bring back Kashmiri Pandits, who are a part of our life, with honour and dignity, we are incomplete without them, we will get them back with honour and dignity. And it is not a time-bound process,” said Nayeem Akhtar, spokesperson for the PDP, which governs Jammu and Kashmir in alliance with the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre.
“We will not allow separate townships to come up in Kashmir. This is an attempt by the BJP government to divide the people of J&K on religious lines. We will not allow this to happen,” separatist leader Yasin Malik said today, calling for protests and a strike.
The Home Ministry had written last year to the state government asking for townships complete with all facilities to be built to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits. The floods in Kashmir pushed the issue to the backburner and it has now been raised again.