Govt Considering Resettling Pandits In Valley: Advani
12 March 2003
The Times of India
New Delhi: The Central and state governments are considering resettling Kashmiri Pandits in two townships in Jammu and Kashmir but have no intention of forcing, or pressurising, them into going there. Responding to questions in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday morning, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani said the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the state would be a key test of return of normalcy. The earlier government in the state had tried; this time around, the chief minister has met the PM on this and they have tentatively decided on townships near the shrines of Mattan and Kheer Bhavani. The Centre is ready to give Rs 10 crore. Every effort is being made in this regard, said Advani. There is no difference of opinion between the Union and state governments on this. Former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah warned of the dangers, saying the security environment was unsafe even for them. If Pandits became targets of Al Qaeda or other militant groups, as they might, was the government aware of the possible fallout? But Kashmiri Samiti Secretary Sunil Shakdhar later told Times News Network: 'How can they talk of a dignified return of the Pandits to Kashmir when there has been till date not even a dignified talk with the community? The government has not even bothered to consult the Pandit organisations or their representatives.' Another spokesman of the Pandits, Rakesh Kaul, alleged that the government was falling prey to J&K CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's plan to herd the Kashmiri Pandits into ghettos, without bothering about their livelihood and physical safety. When this question was raised in the House, Advani said there is no question of pushing them into Kashmir. The Pandits will not return unless they feel confident; this is why earlier plans failed. MP Karan Singh raised the issue of jobs which were as necessary as security if the Pandits did return.