January 2016 News

Exodus Day: Kashmiri Pandits Revisit Massacre Site

19 January 2016
The Indian Express
Arun Sharma

Jammu: Observing 'Exodus Day', when thousands of Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley under terrorist threat 26 years ago, a group of Pandits Tuesday visited Nadimarg village near Shopian to pay homage to 24 people killed by terrorists in March 2003. This was the first visit by migrant community leaders to the Pandit settlement in Nadimarg, national spokesperson of All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC) King C Bharti said. Nearly two dozen members of APMCC led by the organisation's chairman, Vinod Pandit, visited the settlement. The settlement now looks like a haunted place amid burnt and damaged houses, Bharti said. Visiting the village under tight security cover, Vinod Pandit also laid the foundation of a memorial for those killed by militants in the last 26 years across J&K. He said names of all the victims, in both the Valley and in Jammu, will be engraved on it. January 19 is observed as the Exodus Day - some call it 'Holocaust Day' - by Kashmiri Pandits to mark their migration from the Valley in 1990. Between 3 lakh and 4 lakh Pandits are said to have fled Kashmir since 1989, when pro-separatist militancy was nearing its peak. But despite announcement of packages by successive central and state governments to ensure their return and rehabilitation in the Valley, not many have gone back. To make it viable, the state government has proposed to increase the relief amount for construction of houses in the Valley from the present Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh. The proposal is pending before the Centre. The visiting Pandits said they were prepared to return home, but want political, social and economic safeguards. Members of Panun Kashmir and All-State Kashmiri Pandit Conference, meanwhile, protested outside Raj Bhavan to demand a judicial probe into the killing of Pandits in the Valley.