Hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has threatened to launch a campaign against the creation of a separate settlement for the Kashmiri Pandit community in the Valley. He warned that such settlements can create an Israel-Palestine type situation in Kashmir and permanently divide the majority and minority communities in the state.
Geelani, however, insisted that he was not against the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits and will support every measure to settle the community back in Valley. “We want them to return and live with their Muslim brethren in their old neighbourhoods,” Geelani said while addressing a press conference here. He said that even if the members of community have sold their houses in Valley, the Government should provide them Rs 30 lakh each to construct their houses at their original places. “But creating separate settlements in the name of Kashmiri Pandits is unacceptable”.
He warned that if the government went ahead with the plan he will lead a mass resistance to it. “We will launch an agitation against the plan and hold seminars, conferences and meetings,” Geelani said. The hawk said that Kashmiri Pandits were a part of Kashmiri society and should come back to Valley. He, however, appealed to the community “not to fall prey to the designs of Government of India”. “Do not to accept this plan which will only divide our society and create civil strife,” he said.
He said there was a plan to settle “Sangh Parivar and outsiders” in these separate zones. “The aim is to change the demography of the state and create a permanent social division in Kashmir. In these colonies, the fundamentalists will be given arms training to start a civil war”.
Incidentally, Geelani had maintained a low profile during the extra-ordinary situation triggered by the burning of Dastgeer Sahib shrine. He didn’t call for a prolonged protest nor did he support the call for the march to shrine by Grand Mufti Bashir-u-Din.
The demand for a separate settlement for Kashmiri Pandits is not a new idea either. Various Kashmiri Pandit organisations including Panun Kashmir have vigorously campaigned for a separate homeland for the community in the Valley. The community feels that such a segregated area will secure it against future mass eruptions in the Valley.
The idea resurfaced at a recent Global Meet of Pandits in New Delhi around two months ago. The meeting made a pitch for a “landing place” for the community in Valley and “a wholesome Satellite City” was held out as an ideal refuge in Valley. The Pandits want the city to be self-sufficient in terms of “overall infrastructure, economic avenues, adequate land, decent accommodation, educational institutions, medical care, recreation centers and commercial infrastructures”.
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.