Pandits get a warm welcome to start a new innings in Kashmir

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Srinagar: Subhash Zutshi was a class IV student when his parents left their home at Rainawari in the dead of the night to migrate to Jammu in order to save their lives during the onset of militancy in 1990.

Much water has flown down the Jhelum since The Great Pandit Exodus, and Zutshi has returned to the valley after 26 years to start a new innings with his Muslim friends and test the waters before the final homecoming.

“I do not know politics. We have been visiting different places for the last three-four days and not once did we feel insecure. We have been meeting people who have been very generous. My mohalla wallas have invited us to live with them. We do not want to live in separate colonies,” Zutshi said.

Welcome to paradise, where Kashmiri Muslims and pandits have jointly embarked on a unique journey to remove the trust deficit and restore the confidence of the migrants before their final homecoming to the valley.

Conceived by Jammu and Kashmir Reconciliation Front (JKRF), a Kashmiri pandit group, the pilot project to bridge the gap between Muslims and migrant Pandits was launched here on Monday.

Under the pilot project, nearly 40 Pandit youth from 15 families arrived here to live with Muslim families

“I tried to convince pandit families to come back. They said they have lived their lives and their future lies in their children. Instead they allowed their children to go to the valley (to test the waters). It is an attempt to revive Kashmiriyat (pluralistic culture) without an iota of politics,” said Sandeep Mawa, chairman, JKRF.

Mawa noted that the majority community has offered to open their hearts and homes for pandits in a sincere effort to remove mistrust. “We are trying to bind two communities together. Let us forget politics. It is a human issue,” Mawa said.

Muslims too have come forward and offered to host pandits in their homes. Mohammad Ibrahim Chesti, a 65-year-old retired government employee, has volunteered to host two pandit families at his home in Lal Bazar to remove the mistrust between pandits and Muslims.

“We will host two families. They will stay with us as long as they wish. There is no timeframe for their stay. We are one people,” Chesti said.

Nazir Ahmad, a shopkeeper from Karan Nagar, too has opened his house for Pandits. “My house is open for pandits. They are welcome to live with us,” he said.

Official figures reveal that around 41,117 migrant families from Kashmir are registered in Jammu and 21,000 others in Delhi and other states. Of the total migrant families living in Jammu, 37,128 are Hindus, 2,246 Muslims, 1,738 Sikhs and five others. The return of the Kashmiri migrants to the valley is a part of the Centre’s Rs1,618-crore package, announced in 2008.

However, there are 18,732 Kashmiri pandit migrant families that are getting relief in Jammu. The government has incurred Rs321.948 crore for providing cash assistance to Kashmiri migrants from March 2014 to April 2016. An amount of Rs18.76 crore was also incurred for providing foodgrains to the migrants registered for relief in Jammu.

Under the relief category, the government is providing monthly cash assistance of Rs2,500 per person, subject to a maximum of Rs10,000 per family. In addition, these families are provided ration, 9kg of rice per person per month, 2kg of atta per person per month and 1kg of sugar per family per month

Under the package, Kashmiri migrants who propose or intend to return to their original place of stay can avail financial assistance of Rs75 lakh for construction of a house. (DNA)

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