‘No safe place’: Targeted by terrorists, Kashmiri Pandit employees of J&K say they will not be scapegoats

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These days, Anil Kaul spends a lot of time contemplating whether switching his job from the corporate sector in Maharashtra to a government teacher position in Kashmir was the right decision he took five years ago.

The 36-year-old strongman had left a cushioned position at a Nagpur-based multinational company in 2017 to take up a teacher’s job in Kashmir as part of the Prime Minister’s special package for displaced Kashmiri Pandits. Kaul had served in the private company for 10 years. Years and lots of promise showed up, but when his family wanted him back, some friends and relatives warned him about a “bad career move.”

“For five years I worked in some schools in Kashmir. I was satisfied that I was serving at my place of birth which I had left in 1990, when I was only four years old,” he said, adding, “I had stopped thinking that I had left a rewarding job. The feeling of being home prevailed over everything… until…” he told News18 inside the highly-secured Vesu camp in Kulgam.

The transit camp on the Jammu-Srinagar Expressway where 370 Pandit workers live, many of whom have accommodated their families, has been demolished. It is accessed through a gate manned by police and paramilitary forces built in identical rows of white plastered buildings and some built in mortar and bricks. A tall fence demarcates the front side of the highway while the army camp covers it from behind.

Pandit campers said that 40 per cent of the families have left the Vesu camp and more were planning to drop their children after obtaining leave certificates from the schools they attended. The attendance in this camp is still better than the transit accommodation of Mattan, Sheikhpora. , and Baramulla where more than 50 percent of the families have moved.

Over the past 25 days at the Vesu camp, Kaul, his friends and KP employees have erected a tent to protect themselves from the rain and sun to protest and ask the government to move them to Jammu, Chandigarh, or Delhi and make them work again. urged not to pressurize. in Kashmir. “We are humans. Don’t make our children orphans,” said one protester, “we will not be scapegoats… don’t make us scapegoats.”

“Why is the government putting our lives at risk? Why don’t the authorities tell us directly that they want us to be killed?” said another protester, refusing to be named.

Last week three Hindus – a teacher and a banker in Kulgam, where Kaul and his wife work as teachers, and a laborer in Budgam – were killed in a series of attacks that began last year, when suspected terrorists targeted targets. And chose the shooting locations of his own volition. , Three teachers, including two women, were among those killed. A clerk in the revenue department, a female artist, police, a chemist, some snacks or pani puri vendors, labourers, panchayat members, government servants and civilians among others were murdered.

Last week, after a series of meetings with the Union Home Minister, first in Jammu and Kashmir and later in Delhi, the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha-led administration decided to provide safe accommodation to Pandit employees and resume workplace duties. assured to do.

A top government official told News18 that apart from posting KP employees and other minorities in the newly allotted safe areas, which would look like a security corridor, the staff would not be posted away from highways and main roads. “We have asked the employees to make their posting priority feel secure,” he said. The district SP has been asked to explain the scheme in detail.”

On Saturday, the Srinagar administration and education department shifted around 1,500 KPs ​​and 177 of the migrant workers to “safe areas” under a new scheme by the government to encourage them to stay back in the Valley.

However, Chetna Kaul, a teacher, said she feels there is no place in Kashmir that can be called “safe”.

“We are being called by the officers, ‘What safe place do you want to be posted’, and I replied to my superior, ‘Sir, you fix a safe place for me. If there is one, post me there’ ‘,” He said.

The officer hung up the phone, he said.