Following targeted killings of a few Pandit and Dogra employees in the Valley, the rest are demanding their relocation and are protesting for it in Jammu for the past over two 200 days.
The relocation demand erupted soon after, Rahul Bhat, who was working in the revenue department, was shot dead by militants inside the office premises in Chadoora village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on May 12.
On December 21, Sinha said employees from the minority community, including Pandits protesting in Jammu and not resuming their duties in Kashmir, would not be paid salaries.
“After the employees fled to Jammu from Kashmir, they asked for a ‘breathing period’ which we allowed and provided salaries till August this year. We can’t pay them if they are sitting at home and not resuming their duties,” the L-G said at a press conference in Jammu.
This created a wave of anger among the migrant Pandit and Dogra employees, who are camping in Jammu for the last seven months demanding their relocation.
They got open support from opposition parties like National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Aam Aadmi Party and Apni Party, who criticised the Union territory administration over the “step-motherly treatment and bureaucratic indifference” towards the protesting employees.
The Congress said it will make it the main issue when its ‘Bharat Jodo’ Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi reaches Jammu and Kashmir early next year.
As the L-G’s statement snowballed into a controversy, the BJP came in support of the migrant employees' demands. “We reiterate that we back their demands. We stand firmly by the Kashmiri Pandit and reserved category (Dogra) employees. Come what may, we are with them,” Jammu and Kashmir BJP president Ravinder Raina said.
Even Union Minister Jitendra Singh, who represents the Jammu-Kathua Lok Sabha seat in the Parliament, came out in support of these employees. “If there is a threat even to one life, it is better to save that life even if it means closing down a dozen offices,” he said.
Political observers believe that sensing electoral losses in the next election, the BJP was forced to come in support of the protesting employees and issue statements against their own administration led by the L-G.
“Opposition parties especially Congress can encash this situation in Jammu which is the vote bank of the BJP. Kashmiri-based NC and PDP want to kill two birds with one stone. If Pandit employees are allowed to relocate, it will dent the Modi government’s return of peace narrative. Second, both the NC and the PDP want to generate sympathy among Pandit and other non-Muslim voters by supporting the demand of relocation,” Javid Trali, a political analyst, told DH.
Trali, who heads J&K Policy Institute, a Srinagar-based think-tank, said that the BJP had no choice but to go against the statement of their own L-G.
However, the statement of Manoj Sinha where he said it was a fact that some Kashmiri Pandits became victims of targeted killings, but the country should stop seeing this on the basis of religion since a lot of other people have also been killed, has been widely appreciated in Kashmir.