Amid a spike in targeted attacks against Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley and the government's plan to move them to "safer locations," the Jammu and Kashmir administration recently gave its nod for the redesignation of posts for employees engaged under the Prime Minister's Development Package from the district to the divisional level.
With the redesignation plan being put into action, employees may be transferred anywhere within the Kashmir division.
The decision was taken after a meeting of the administrative council, led by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, on 8 June. Officials said that the move would remove "bottlenecks" in the career progression of employees, PTI reported.
Will the Order Provide Security? Pandits Think Not
"Even with this order, our demand for security has not been fulfilled. The relocation that we desire has not been approved," Ranjan Jotshi, a PMP employee from Kashmir's Mattan, told The Quint.
He added that even if Kashmiri Pandits are moved from one district to another, they would still remain within Kashmir.
"Which place in Kashmir is safe for us," he asked, adding, "People are killed in Baramulla, Anantnag, Srinagar... Everywhere the same situation prevails."
Jotshi also added that this order would lead to the separation of families. "If they wanted to initiate rehabilitation, why keep a man in Kupwara and his wife in Anantnag, with a distance of 220 km between them?"
Similarly, parents will be kept apart from their children, he said.
'Positive Step by Govt, But We Are Still Kept Locked In'
On the other hand, another Pandit named Sunny Raina praised the government's move, but added some caveats.
"Earlier, transfer from one district to another was impossible. Even promotions did not take place. Now that is not the case," Raina, an employee working under the PM package in Kashmir's Vessu Transit Camp, told The Quint.
He added that their demand over the issue was first raised 12 years ago, but it was not met by the administration.
"We used to go the Governor and chief ministers repeatedly, but to no avail. We even took our demand to the Home Ministry once," he said.
However, Raina said that Pandits were still not allowed to go outside Kashmir. "They are still keeping us locked in."
There are a total of 382 families in Vessu, where Raina works, employed under the PM package.
The PM's package was rolled out in the financial year (FY) 2008-09 to initiate the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants by giving them incentives like housing, employment, and transit facilities.
Spate of Attacks Against Pandits
The Valley has been in the midst of a brutal surge of militant attacks. Ten people, including civilians – locals and non-locals – as well as security personnel have been killed since 7 May.
On 2 June, hours after the killing of a banker from Rajasthan in Kulgam, two non-local labourers were shot at in Magraypora in the Chadoora area of central Kashmir's Budgam district. One of them later succumbed to his injuries.
The Kashmir Pandit Sangarash Samiti (KPSS) has also moved the Ladakh High Court to direct the government to relocate all religious minorities living in Kashmir to a safer place outside the Valley.
Pandits employed under the PM's package have also been staging continuous protests threatening mass exodus since the killing of Rahul Bhat, a fellow Pandit.
(With inputs from PTI.)