Tribune News Service
Srinagar, October 13
“It’s the fear of the unknown,” says Sanjay Tikku, a 53-year-old minority community leader hiding in a temple in Ganpatiyar area of Srinagar.
Tikku, who heads the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, had to take off his protective cover after selective killings in the Valley last week, raising fears of another exodus.
He had witnessed a mass exodus of members of his community in 1990, but his family had decided to stay with over 800 other families. But the recent murders have shaken his confidence. “In these 30 years I may have felt a little insecure, but I never felt death lurking around,” he told The Tribune.
Though the UT administration has assured of enhanced security to the Pandit community, fear prevails at the ground level. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has been assuring the community of adequate security, but looking at the security scenario, the community is skeptical.
After the 1990 exodus, 807 families had decided to stay back in the Valley. Due to the initiative taken by the central government which brought employment package for the minority community in the last few years, around 4,000 Kashmiri Pandits had adopted the scheme. Government jobs had decided to return. About 2,000 more were expected to join by November. But recent murders have brought back the ghost of the 1990s.
For the first time since the 1990 exodus, seven of the 807 families have moved out after the recent killings. Most of the 4,000 employees who returned under the government’s rehabilitation package have also left. “Although they are temporarily gone, clearly they were vulnerable to the latest killings,” commented Tikku.
Concerned over the prevailing sentiments among the people, the UT administration has ordered the employees who had fled to report and return for duty. “He has been asked to report back on duty in a fortnight. In any case they live in fortified security townships where there is no fear, and we have told them that we will strengthen it further,” said a senior government official.
But the community seems to be shaken. “They are still trying to find out who killed Makhan Lal Bindu or in this case the teachers. And he himself says that minorities can be targeted under a conspiracy. In such a situation, how can they assure us of our safety,” questioned a government teacher who was transferred to Jammu two days ago.
Although the security establishment claims to be the target of the killers, community members say it will take more than counter-terrorist operations to restore their faith.
They have been asked to submit the report in a fortnight. They live in Garhwali Basti. We have told them that we will further strengthen the security. senior officer
Although the security establishment claims to be the target of the killers, community members say it will take much longer than counter-insurgency operations to restore confidence.