Sunday, March 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Mechanism to address Pandits’ problems soon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 29
The Centre today decided to establish a mechanism to address problems of Kashmiri Pandits hit by militancy even as the community rejected a proposal to resettle them in two designated places in the valley.

“We have decided to revive a system, which was earlier in the Home Ministry in 1994, to address the grievances of the Kashmiri Pandits,” Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani told newspersons after meeting a delegation of Kashmiri leaders in his North Block office here.

The decision comes in the wake of the recent killing of 24 Kashmiri Pandits in Nandimarg village in Pulwama district in the Kashmir Valley.

Besides addressing the security concerns, the system would also look into the matters concerning the employment, education and financial status of the Pandits, Mr Advani said.

As for several demands made by various organisations of displaced Kashmiri Pandits, the Deputy Prime Minister assured that these would be earnestly looked into. Strongly rejecting the state government’s proposal of resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits in Mattan and Kheer-Bhawani in the Valley, the leaders belonging to prominent organisations of displaced Kashmiris expressed serious apprehensions regarding the security and financial status of the Pandits staying in and outside the Valley.

The leaders emphasised on the need for a “clear-cut” policy of the Centre on Kashmir regarding Pandits and their representation in Parliament and at other decision-making levels.

“The delegation has conveyed to Mr Advani that while the Centre is ready to talk to various groups in Kashmir, including separatists, why are Kashmiri Pandits being neglected,” Mr M.K. Kaw, president of the All-India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS), who led the delegation, said.

In a memorandum to the Deputy Prime Minister, the delegation demanded a high-level probe into the Nandimarg massacre to pinpoint the failures and weaknesses of the present security system, fix responsibility and punish the guilty.

The delegation, comprising leaders of the AIKS, Kashmiri Samiti, J and K Vichar Manch and All-India Kashmiri Pandit Conference, demanded substantial financial relief and employment for the kin of victims of the massacre.

“This massacre should awaken the government to the dark designs of Pakistan and make it more responsive to demands for providing adequate and foolproof security to the remaining members of the Hindu and Sikh communities in Kashmir,” the memorandum said. The meeting, which lasted for more than an hour, was also attended by Home Secretary N Gopalaswami and Special Secretary (J&K Affairs) Ashok Bhandari.

Mr Kaw said the Deputy Prime Minister had assured them of a monthly meeting between Home Ministry officials and leaders of the Kashmiri community.

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