SRINAGAR: Prominent Kashmiri Pandits, who stayed put in Kashmir when a majority of their community members fled, on Sunday joined the chorus that has opposed government’s plans to create exclusive townships for the migrant Pandits.
“We reject the government’s idea of creating separate colonies for Pandits,” eminent educationist Prof CL Vishen said.
“Co-existence is Kashmir’s culture. We want to coexist with all types of people like we used to before the migration,” said the 82-year-old Vishen, who never left Kashmir and served in the education sector despite hardships.
Vishen expressed his views during a round-table conference organised by JK Youth Council, a group launched by young students. The conference was attended by students, representatives of religious minorities including Pandits and Sikhs and pro-freedom leaders Mohammad Yasin Malik and Javed Mir.
Vishen, who during the peak of armed rebellion started a chain of schools and colleges in the Valley, said he never felt the need to leave his homeland.
“I have faith that the Muslims can only protect the Pandits. I did not leave my homeland because of my Muslims friends and neighbours,” Vishen said.
“Trust me I have more faith in the Muslims than the members of my own community. In 2014 (floods) I was saved by Muslims,” he added.
Ajay Kumar Shukla, an official of Dharmarth Trust, a managing body of Hindu temples, asked the government to look at the condition of Sheikhpora Colony (in Budgam) before setting up similar colonies.
“Pandits living there are living a secluded life. New colonies are bound to face the same consequences,” Shukla said, adding the government must encourage Pandits to come and construct their new houses within the habitations with Muslim population.
“Main hundustani hun lekin kashmiri ka khana khata hoon (I am an Indian but I eat food prepared by Kashmiris),” said Shukla, who has been living in Kashmir for the past 16 years.
The JKLF chief Yasin Malik, who has been meeting pro-freedom leaders to forge a joint strategy against the exclusive Pandit enclaves, said that some Pandit groups were spreading canards against the majority community.
“Pandits groups who claim that a sizable number of their members were murdered by Kashmiri Muslims must come forward with the details.
A section of Kashmiri Pandits observes January 19 as the ‘Holocaust day’. There is no record or evidence to substantiate this claim. I ask them to come forward with the records,” Malik said.
Surender Kachroo, a Pandit who returned home after spending nearly three decades outside, also rejected the idea of separate colonies for Pandits.
“I receive calls from my Pandit brothers from outside the Valley. They inquire about my safety, I tell them that I feel safer here than any other place in the world,” Kachroo said.