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20 Jan 2017

Motion for return of Pandits

TT, Srinagar, Jan. 19: The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly today unanimously passed a resolution for the return of the Pandits and other migrants to the Valley, the first-ever move coinciding with the 27th anniversary of the community's exodus.
The resolution was moved by former chief minister Omar Abdullah and passed by voice vote.
Omar, addressing the members, urged all parties to rise above politics and clear the resolution, saying the Pandits had to leave Kashmir in 1990 because of "unfortunate circumstances". "27 years is too many," the working president of the National Conference had tweeted before moving the motion.
The resolution seeks the honourable return of the Pandits as well as some Sikhs and Muslims who had left the Valley following a rise in militancy.
Ruling alliance partners People's Democratic Party and BJP voted in favour of the resolution, as did Omar's NC and the Congress from the Opposition.
State education minister and government spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar said "Kashmir needed Pandits more than Pandits needed Kashmir". "There was a need to resolve differences (between Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits)... when there is only one kind of people living in any part of the world, they (the area) loose their balance... If we are not able to bring the Pandits back, it would be the end of our civilisation," Akhtar said.
Ravinder Raina, the state chief of the BJP's youth wing, stressed the need for an "honourable return" of the Pandits so that they could live a "dignified" life in the Valley.
Ashwani Chrungoo, a leader of Pandit group Panun Kashmir, acknowledged the resolution was "historic" but termed it a "mere formality".
"I am glad the Assembly's memory of the Pandits is still intact. The fact is we have not seen any visible measures to facilitate their return all these years. There has to be a structured dialogue with the Pandits to reach a conclusion (on how to ensure their return) but that is not happening," Chrungoo said.
He claimed the community was not even informed before about the resolution. "The only Assembly to pass such a resolution earlier was Madhya Pradesh's, in 2009. They had invited us to witness the development."
Around 62,000 Kashmiri Pandit families are registered as migrants with the government, of which 39,000 stay in Jammu, 19,000 in Delhi and the remaining in other parts of the country.
The Manmohan Singh government had in 2008 announced a package of Rs 1,618.40 crore to facilitate their return, but the efforts did not yield any results.
There are differences within the Pandit groups too, with some like Panun Kashmir seeking a Union territory spanning around half the Valley and others demanding exclusive townships. But such demands have been opposed by separatist and civil rights groups in the Valley. They want the Pandits to live in mixed neighbourhoods, like they did before militancy erupted.

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