All-out opposition to Sainik, Pandit colonies in J&K

The proposed plan to set-up Sainik colonies in Kashmir has snowballed into a major controversy with separatists and civil society groups terming it as a ploy to settle non-state subjects in the Valley. Separatists have even warned that the proposed plan would have serious repercussions.

“Such Israeli-type settlements will be opposed tooth and nail,” senior Hurriyat (G) leader and Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) chairman Shabir Ahmad Shah in a statement here said on May 7 whereas Dukhtaran-e-Millat chairperson, Aasiya Andrabi impressed upon separatists to frame a joint strategy to counter the move.

Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani here on May 16 while addressing the amalgam’s advisory council meeting alleged that communal forces were using government machinery for implementation of RSS agenda which includes setting up of Sainik colonies, creation of separate townships for migrant Kashmiri Pandits and implementation of New Industrial Policy. “The circumstantial evidence indicates that the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and BJP have agreed on the establishment of Sainik colonies and the deal has deliberately been kept hidden from the public,” Geelani had been quoted as saying.

Referring to separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits, he alleged that the policy makers of India want to divide the two communities along religious lines and project Kashmir as a communal issue. Geelani appealed to the Pandit community that they should not support any such proposal. Besides, outrightly rejecting the New Industrial Policy, he said that India wants to “weaken the special status of Kashmir and convert Muslim majority into minority here.” Earlier, Hurriyat (G) chairman while hitting out at Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti accused her of “implementing RSS agenda in the state” (May 12) and termed New Delhi’s plan to establish Sainik colony in Kashmir as “open aggression on Kashmiri nation” (May 8).

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) led by Mohammad Yasin Malik, May 17, kickstarted its programme of joint strategy to tackle the issue of Sainik colony and Pandit townships. While addressing media here May 13, Malik said that they will not allow the construction of Sainik colonies and Pandit townships in Kashmir as they are on the pattern of Israeli settlements in Palestine. He however, reiterated that Kashmir Pandits are “our brothers who can return to Kashmir and live safely in the Muslim localities.” Furthermore, opposing the New Industrial Policy, Malik said that the policy is aimed at giving entry to non-state businessmen. “Through East India Company, the British adopted the same tactics to occupy Indian sub-continent. The same policy is being adopted by India in Jammu & Kashmir now.”

Addressing a seminar under ‘Hafta-e-Shahadat’ programme of his party, May 17, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that by executing plans in the name of Sainik and Pandit colony they are trying to damage the disputed character of the state and weaken Kashmiris economically and politically. “We won’t allow it to happen at any cost.” Furthermore, asking the state government to come clean on the issues of these colonies, Mirwaiz, while addressing a public gathering here May 20 said that press conferences and statements are only to dilute the issue. “Government must come out with a written order that they are not establishing Sainik colonies and Pandit townships.”

Though he termed Kashmiri Pandits an inseparable part of Kashmiri society, but said that any attempt to divide people by separating them on religious or sectarian basis would be strongly opposed. Earlier, Mirwaiz led a bike and car rally in connection with ‘Hafta-e-Shahadat’ observed to commemorate the death anniversary of his father, Mirwaiz Moulvi Mohammad Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone and martyrs of Hawal (May 19). Restrictions were imposed in several areas of old Srinagar to foil proposed march of Hurriyat (G) to Eidgah to commemorate the anniversaries of Farooq and Lone on May 21.

Mirwaiz while addressing Friday congregation here at historic Jamia Masjid May 13 informed that 300 kanals of land have been provided to non-state subjects and 90 kanals of land had been allotted to a non-local corporation. He further informed that the number of educated unemployed youth in Kashmir had increased to 7 lakh in 2014.

Former Chief Minister and National Conference Working President, Omar Abdullah, addressing party leaders at Baramulla in north Kashmir on May 8 said that the government’s proposal to go ahead with the allocation of land for the proposed Sainik colony could be a ruse to settle non-state subjects in Kashmir and hence bypass Article 370. Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader, Prof Saifuddin Soz, in a statement here May 16 said that composite colonies in Kashmir “are not going to solve any of the problems of migrant Kashmiri Pandits.”

Amid raging controversy, Chief Minister, at the inaugural ceremony of coffee-cum-book shop here on May 10 maintained that no land has been allotted for this purpose. She added that the first meeting regarding setting up of Sainik Board was held during Omar Abdullah’s tenure as Chief Minister and recently, a meeting regarding the issue was held during Governor’s rule. Media reports here however, said that the state government has reportedly asked its officials to identify land in Srinagar and Budgam for Sainik colony. The government is also reportedly planning to construct shelters for homeless non-state subjects under National Urban Livelihoods Mission at Kupwara and Jammu.