Srinagar: The state government’s contradictory statements—from an endorsement with riders to outright denial—on the setting up of a Sainik Colony in Srinagar has worried a cross-section of the Kashmiri society, which says it is an assault on the state’s unique demography.
A soldiers’ panel headed by Governor NN Vohra has proposed the Sainik Colony near Old Airfield in Srinagar. The government has agreed to allot 173 kanals of land, which has been identified.
Prof Noor Ahmad Baba, former head of Kashmir University’s political science department, said by and large people see the proposed colony with suspicion.
“It’s a sensitive issue but the government came out with contradictory statements. There’s no clarity from the government whether the colony is exclusively meant for JK citizens or what kind of colony it will be? Generally, Sainik colony has an implication here and the government will have to face repercussions,” said Baba.
Law professor Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain said the Sainik Colony, per se, is not an issue but the problem is whether outsiders will be settled in it. He said that the proposed colony has Rashtriya Swayamsevak’s avowed agenda of settling outsiders in the Valley as its backdrop, then “everyone is worried.”
The documents accessed by Kashmir Reader don’t specify whether the colony is exclusively meant for former and serving soldiers of the state. However, the government had denied that it has plans to set up the colony in the Valley, arguing that such a colony already existed in Jammu region.
Civil society member Shakeel Qalandar said that it needs to be ascertained why the state plans developing a separate Sainik Colony in the Valley, when every “nook and corner of this place is militarized”.
He said BJP MP Tarun Vijay’s proposal to the government, demanding such colonies in the Valley, would be contested.
“We won’t allow further erosion of our constitution,” said Qalandar.
Historian Ashiq Hussain Bhat said he sees a “sinister design” behind the proposed Sainik Colony because former soldiers of Kashmir have their own houses here.
“Why to develop separate colonies when every Kashmiri has a house. It raises doubts. Basically, it is BJP and RSS agenda,” Bhat said.
Mohammad Yaseen Khan, chairman Kashmir Economic Alliance, an amalgam of traders’ organisations, said the Sainik Colony is part of BJP’s plan to alter demography of the Muslim majority state and the amalgam would not allow it.
“BJP wants to settle people from outside here. In the garb of ex-servicemen, anyone can be settled here and it’s their agenda to change the demography of our state,” said Khan.
According to Khan, the Modi-led government wanted to set up exclusive residential colonies for Kashmiri Pandits but after facing resentment here, they gave up. “Now they have come up with another agenda of Sainik Colony,” he added.