A group of Kashmiri Pandit employees staged a protest here on Saturday against targeted killings and demanding their relocation to safe places outside Kashmir Valley, days after a community member was killed by terrorists in his office in Budgam district. Alleging that camps housing Kashmiri Pandit employees have been locked following the killing of Rahul Bhat, the protesters demanded that the authorities remove such restrictions on them.
The community members are posted in Kashmir Valley under the prime minister’s special employment package. Such employees living in the Vessu transit camp threatened to march to the transit accommodations at Sheikpura in Budgam, where Bhat lived along with others, and Veerwan in Baramulla if the authorities did not lift the restrictions by Sunday.
"We, the employees of Vessu transit camp, have decided to march to Sheikhpura and Veerwan colony in solidarity with our brothers and sisters tomorrow morning," the All PM Package Employees Forum said in a letter to Divisional Commissioner P K Pole. "The other day one of our honest brothers (Rahul Bhat) was killed, that too in day time and that too in his office where a magistrate sits," the forum said.
They said instead of getting solidarity and support, the protesting employees are facing teargas shells, baton charge, detention and arrests for expressing resentment against the killing. Meanwhile, clashes broke out between the members of the community and the police in Baramulla, officials said.
The community members wanted to march outside the Veerwan Colony — a transit camp for the migrant employees — but the police did not allow them, resulting in clashes, the officials said. They, however, said there were no reports of any injuries to anyone in the clashes.
At the protest at Press Enclave here, Kashmiri Pandit employees raised slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir administration and against the killing of Bhat. Bhat was killed by Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in the Tehsil office at Chadoora in Budgam district on Thursday.
"We are protesting against the target killings of our brothers. The killings should stop and the government should provide a safe and secure environment where we can work peacefully," one of the protesting employees told reporters. He said the transit camps for the employees have been turned into lockup, and detention centers, and demanded that their locks be opened so that the people are able to live their lives in a simple manner. The protesters said the employees were feeling worried, tensed, insecure, frustrated, and dismayed.
In a press statement, they said the central government must admit in writing that the rehabilitation policy has completely failed. The UT administration and previous elected governments had completed failed in providing a safe and secure environment to the ill-fated minority employee section. We request the Hon'ble LG of UT (J-K), Prime Minister of India that it is the right time to accept the ground reality, according to the statement. They also demanded "relocation to the safest, unhazardous, terror-free places outside Kashmir division."