For the last 35 days, a group of Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) have been sitting outside the Press Club in Jammu in protest against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s rehabilitation package announced in 2008. The protesters said that 45 candidates were left out following the selection process, and since then, have been moving from pillar to post but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
“The special employment package was aimed at providing one job to each household. But what we saw was that one household had three jobs while another had none,” said Sunil Pandita, who still lives in the Jagti migrant camp.
The 45 candidates who have been left out belong to poor households and are primarily from Jagti, Purkhoo and Muthi. They alleged that they were not given jobs despite securing good grades while students who hadn’t performed as well were inducted. The rehabilitation package was announced in 2008 by then PM Manmohan Singh during the inauguration of the Akhnoor Bridge in Jammu.
Since then, barely 1,400 KP migrants have been incorporated into government service. The aim of the package was to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in the valley by providing them jobs. The protesters said that the ones who have been left out are above the age-limit for government service now. The protesters also highlighted the inefficiency of the previous PDP-BJP regime and the Centre in implementing the package effectively.
“The government says that they will rehabilitate six lakh Kashmiri Pandits; they are unable to even provide jobs to 45 candidates. They have made a fool out of us,” said Pandita.
After Narendra Modi assumed power, another development package – Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) – was announced for Jammu and Kashmir on November 7, 2015. Under the package, the creation of 3,000 state government jobs for Kashmiri Migrants at a cost of Rs 1,080 crore was approved.
However, a report by The Hindu in March said that only 254 Kashmiri Pandits have joined the government service. It mentioned there are 64,827 registered migrant families across Jammu and Kashmir, of which 60,489 are Kashmiri Hindus, 2,609 are Muslim families and 1,729 are Sikh families.
Of these 64,827 registered migrant families, 43,494 families are registered in Jammu division. Out of the number, 5,248 are living in the migrant camps.
Vikram Mawa is one of the 45 candidates who had applied for the job during the recruitment process in 2010.
“We have been sitting here for 35 days and nobody came to even see us. The government is not even concerned,” said Mawa.
The protesting candidates have threatened serious consequences if they are not appointed by next week. “The protesters are angry and the laxity of the government has become intolerable. If there are no appointments in the next week, the protesters will be forced to take steps which will have severe consequences,” said Pandita.
Anger has been brewing among Kashmiri Pandits who have been organising protests to assert their demands, including employment, and the forlorn promise of rehabilitation. Recently, non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits under the banner of Kashmiri Pandit Sangrash Samiti (KPSS) sat on a “fast unto death” to highlight the rising unemployment while accusing the Centre of “ignoring” them.
In their statement, the non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits had alleged that despite multiple directions from the J&K High Court and recommendations from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the union territory’s relief department is playing with the “life and security” of Kashmiri Hindus, who have not migrated and continue to live in the Valley.