J&K: Kashmiri Pandit Staff Reiterate 'Relocation' Demand Amid Clamour Over Film at IFFI
Image Courtesy: PTI
Srinagar: The recent cinematic critique of a film by the jury head of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa has reignited concerns amongst protesting government employees from the Kashmiri Pandit (KP) community in Jammu city.
The protest by the community entered the 204th day on Thursday and was cited by many on social media, bringing focus back on the employees who are demanding relocation outside Kashmir valley.
The protest began earlier in May this year after a revenue official Rahul Bhat was killed by suspected militants inside his office, triggering a fresh wave of fear and uncertainty among the minority community. The KP employees recruited since 2010 and posted in the valley are on the strike and have not been attending offices since then.
Film-maker and Right-wing activist Ashoke Pandit backed the protesters on Wednesday, advocating the demand for relocation of KP employees, He also lashed out at the Israeli jury head Nadav Lapid, an acclaimed film director, for terming the film, The Kashmir Files, as “propaganda”.
"We cannot put our community to be targeted by the militants. We do not want more bodies and no more killings. We are hopeful that the authorities will take measures to address our problem and relocate them,” Pandit told reporters.
Incidentally, Lapid told PTI on Thursday that his remarks as jury head had been “misinterpreted”.
“I have enormous respect for the tragedy, victims, survivors and for whoever suffers there. It (my remarks) was not at all about this. I'll repeat these words 10,000 times if I have to say that I was not talking about the political issue, historical equation, or disrespecting the tragedy that happened in Kashmir," he said, adding that: "I was talking about the movie and that such serious topics deserve, in my opinion, a serious film... ."
Following its release, the film was called out by regional political parties, including the National Conference, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and several others for its provocative “communal slant”.
“Finally, someone called out a movie that was nothing but sheer propaganda promoted by the ruling party to demonise Muslims esp Kashmiris and widen the gulf between Pandits and Muslims. Sad that diplomatic channels are now being used to silence the truth,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted after the fresh row.
The Kashmiri Pandit Migrant Employees had carried out a barefoot march in Jammu last week after 200 days of protest against targeted killings. Over 118 civilians, including five Kashmiri Pandits have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir after Article 370 and 35 A was revoked, according to official data.
This year, over 20 persons were killed and injured in targeted killings, including at least two KPs, following which the employees, who have been provided with jobs under the Prime Minister relief and rehabilitation scheme, went on protest.
“We have been protesting for 204 days. There is fear so we came to Jammu. Our only demand is that we should be relocated outside Kashmir. The solution to our problem is not within Kashmir but outside. I believe anything else will not work,” a protester said.
The PM package employee union during the protest raised slogans and criticised the administrtaion for ignoring their demands. A protester told NewsClick that the employees cannot keep “looking over their shoulders” all the time and work in this fear.
The administration drew flak for what many termed as “mishandling” of the problems faced by the Kashmiri Hindu minority in the region. Some of the members from the community termed online support for The Kashmir Files as “hollow” in the midst of lack of support to the protesting employees.
“A jury member's take on the Kashmir Files has shocked 1000s who are now demanding his apology for hurting the sentiments of KPs. Where have you been for the last 6 months when 100s of KPs have been protesting in Jammu, begging Govt. to listen to them? Their salaries stopped,” author Siddhartha Gigoo tweeted.
Meanwhile, in Jammu, where the protests are happening, former minister Choudhary Lal Singh, Chairman Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan Party, condemned the authorities for the “lack of accountability” in the administration.
“The party which promised political empowerment to Jammu has literally left it in total chaos, lawlessness, corruption and a sense of scare all around. Not only that the people have been deprived of popular rule. The Constitution of India which assumes a democratically elected government. to run the affairs of its varied administrative units is being brazenly defied,” Singh said in a party statement.
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