Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir police on Friday detained a Kashmiri Pandit activist as soon as he arrived at Srinagar airport to participate in a peace rally.
Satish Mahaldar, the chairman of Reconciliation, Return and Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits (RRRKP), was detained at a local police station in the city for several hours before being asked to sign a personal bond and directed to fly back to New Delhi where he is based.
Mahaldar had planned to hold a peace rally along with Bollywood singer Saim Bhat of 'Murder 2’ fame. They planned on launching a campaign titled ‘Saath Do’ which intended to promote peac and communal harmony in the region.
“The initiative was also aimed at eradicating misgivings between each other (Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims) and reach out to mothers and sisters of Kashmir who have been suffering,” said Mahaldar.
The initiative was supposed to be flagged off with a press conference and an interaction at Srinagar's Kashmir Press Club (KPC). Their intention was to follow it up with a rally which was expected to be attended by various members of civil society from both, the Kashmiri Muslim and Pandit communities.
“The initiative was supported by entrepreneurs, artists, Bollywood personalities and professionals from the Indian film industry,” Bhat said. The plan was dropped, however, after Mahaldar was detained by the police.
According to a police official, Mahaldar did not have proper permission to carry out the rally.
The organisers, however, said the administration had allowed them to hold a press conference. The police claimed that the permission was subject to conditions and did not extend to carrying out a rally in the area.
Mahaldar often visits the Kashmir Valley and has led several delegations to government functionaries. He has even reportedly met separatist politicians in the past to advocate the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley. He has expressed support for the creation of clusters in order to settle the displaced community.
“All we wanted to do is take a walk, hug people, talk to them about peace and hand roses out to the common folk of Kashmir," Mahaldar said.
Calling it a plan to "foil the initiative” and a "conspiracy aimed to sabotage the return of Kashmiri Pandits", the activist said the administration just wanted to pay lip-service to people about the return of Kashmiri Pandits. “I was supposed to leave on Saturday but the police advised me to leave today” Mahaldar added.
Bhat, who refers to himself as a "sufi ambassador," also expressed his disappointment over the issue. “Will I ask people to shout on the streets and create trouble. All we wanted is to talk about peace and communal harmony,” Bhat said.
The situation in Kashmir has remained on edge for months after the Union Government abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019. Scores of political and civil society delegations were disallowed from moving freely in the valley since August in the wake of a severe clampdown that followed. The security agencies discourage any assembly in the region that could result in a possible law and order situation.