SRINAGAR: Even as displaced Kashmiri Pandits took to streets in various cities across the country on Sunday, to protest against the recent killing of Hindus and Sikhs by terrorists in Srinagar, an undaunted Kashmiri Pandit woman Sarpanch has appealed to her community to return to Kashmir and protest at Lal Chowk, Srinagar instead.
In an exclusive interview to The New Indian, Sarpanch of Trehgam village in Kupwara district, Rajni Dembi also urged the minuscule number of Kashmiri Pandits living in the valley, to hold their ground and not flee. “Kashmir is our motherland, our birth place, our home. We have to stop running away and start returning home. We will live here and die here,” she said.
Dembi returned to Kashmir three years ago from Jammu, where her family had moved to in 1990 when the entire community was ethnically cleansed by the Pakistan-sponsored Islamist terrorists. She contested Panchayat elections and got elected from Trehgam village, which was once known for its native resident, Maqbool Butt, the founder of the terror group, Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).
In 1990, when the exodus of the Pandit community took place, only a few hundred Kashmiri Pandits chose to stay back in the valley. A small number of Kashmiri Pandits later returned to the valley under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh government’s employment package.
However, last week, Makhan Lal Bindroo, a well-known Kashmiri Pandit pharmacist based in Srinagar, was shot dead by terrorists at his shop. A non-Muslim street vendor from Bihar and a Kashmiri Muslim were killed on the same day in separate terror attacks. Two days later, a Kashmiri Sikh school principal and a non-Kashmiri teacher were selectively killed by terrorists in a school in Eidgah area of Srinagar.
The killings triggered widespread anger and fear among minorities — Hindus and Sikhs — in Kashmir. Some Kashmiri Pandits, who were working under the PM employment package in Kashmir, left for Jammu immediately. Several organisations of displaced Kashmiri Pandits held protests against the killings in Delhi, Pune and other cities across the country.
Making a strong appeal to the community, Dembi said, “Those who are protesting in Delhi and at other places in the country, must come and seek final answers here in Kashmir. We can’t always live in fear. Kashmiri Pandits must return to Kashmir.”