New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha, in a “loud and clear message”, told protesting Kashmiri Pandit employees posted in the Kashmir Valley to return to work, warning them that they would not be paid salaries for “sitting at home”.
Although Pandit employees returned to the Valley as part of the Prime Minister Special Employment Scheme after they had left it in May following targeted militant killings, they have not been going to work for the past six months. They have been protesting the alleged lack of security arrangements in the face of targeted militant attacks whilst demanding that be transferred out of the Valley.
On Wednesday, December 21, Sinha, however, asserted that all their demands had already been met, and there was no question of relocating them to Jammu. “We have cleared their (protesting employees’) salaries till August 31 but it cannot be done that they will be paid their salaries by sitting at their homes. This is a loud and clear message to them and they should listen and understand it,” Sinha told reporters, according to PTI.
Sinha sought to underline that all security arrangements are in place to protect Pandit employees from any future militant attacks. According to him, all Pandit employees working in the Valley were already moved to district headquarters in Kashmir, and those working in the rural development department had already been shifted to villages close to Tehsil and district headquarters.
“I was in constant touch with protesting employees and made sincere efforts to address their long pending issues. Almost all these employees were transferred to district headquarters” said Sinha, according to NDTV.
The LG asserted that the J&K administration has appointed officers in every district and one in Raj Bhavan specifically to look into the grievances of Kashmiri Pandits. On the demand that reserved category employees hailing from Jammu and posted in Kashmir Valley be transferred, he clarified that the said posts are of district cadre and division posts based out of the Valley.
“They should keep in mind that they are appointed on posts in Kashmir division and cannot be transferred to Jammu,” he said, according to the news channel.
Following Sinha’s statement, migrant Kashmiri Pandit employees on Wednesday, December 21, intensified their months-long protest demanding a transfer from the Valley.
The protesters also said it was best for the government to sack them as they would not rejoin their services in the Valley in the absence of proper security after a Lashkar-e-Taiba affiliate published hit lists of Kashmiri Pandit employees.
The migrant Kashmiri Pandit and Jammu-based reserved category employees left the Valley in May following the targeted killings of two colleagues. They are seeking relocation outside Kashmir.
Following Sinha’s statement, Kashmiri Pandit employees, employed under the Prime Minister’s Rehabilitation Package in the Valley, held demonstrations outside Press Club in Jammu.
Carrying placards depicting the administration’s “step-motherly treatment” towards them, they also raised slogans in support of their relocation.
“It is an unfortunate statement. It is better for the government to sack us all. We will not go to the Valley to join services. Our lives are more important than jobs,” a protester told reporters here, according to PTI.
He said that if the government wanted to stop their salaries, it was free to do so. “Our salaries should be used for nation-building,” he added.
The protester also said Kashmiri Pandit employees could not be made symbols of peace and normality in Kashmir.
“We are in this position because of the situation created by the government. We had been living in the Valley for the past decade. But now, hit lists are being issued to kill us. Do you want me to go to Kashmir and get killed?” he asked.
He was referring to a blog linked to ‘The Resistance Front’, an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, that has released separate lists of Kashmiri Pandit employees recruited under the Prime Minister’s Rehabilitation Package and threatened to turn their transit colonies into “graveyards”.
“Who will protect us? The administration has failed to protect us from selective killings,” another protester said.
“…We want the government to assure us that no Kashmiri Pandit will be targeted by terrorists in the future. If they are not in a position to give such an assurance, please accept our demand and relocate us outside Kashmir,” he added.
(With PTI inputs)