Delhi HC directs J&K govt, centre to protect lands abandoned by Pandits

In a verdict that could bring relief the thousands of Kashmiri refugees scattered across the country, the Delhi high court has directed the Jammu & Kashmir government to ensure protection of lands abandoned in Verinag, Kashmir by five Kashmiri Pandits, who left the valley in 1989 following a breakdown of law and order.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw directed the Jammu & Kashmir government to have the properties of the five migrants inspected by the deputy commissioner of Anantnag, Kashmir every six months.

The court also directed the central government ''to use its good offices to ensure compliance of the aforesaid directions by the government of the state of Jammu & Kashmir''.

A Hindustan Times report quoting Advocate B L Wali, one of the petitioners, said the high court's order will help lakhs of Pandits whose properties in the valley have been encroached upon.

Most of the Pandit families in Jammu and Kashmir were forced to flee from Kashmir valley after being repeatedly threatened and targeted by crowds of Kashmiri Muslims and Islamic radicals in an `ethnic cleansing' in January 1990.

The estimate of Pandits having fled Kashmir on 19 January 1990, the day of the purging, ranges from approximately 100,000 to 350,000.

Out of the five petitioners, Wali and two others are currently living in Delhi, while one of the remaining two are living in Panipat and the other in Jammu - all of them senior citizens, says the report.

Wali is reported to have said that miscreants in the area have looted and set on fire all moveable properties lying in their residential houses in Verinag, making their return to the Valley all the more difficult.

The Jammu & Kashmir state administration showed ''callousness and helplessness to protect the premises / land, despite the existence of the state law to that effect,'' Wali pointed out.

He said their properties were being used for parking of vehicles and as a transport yard, although there is no construction as yet.

Cases pertaining to immovable property are generally filed with high courts of the respective state or union territory. However, Justice Endlaw made an exception ''…in view of the same very reasons for which the petitioners have been forced to leave their immovable properties in Kashmir and take refuge in Delhi…''

The judge also noted that their petition was pending in the high court for the last 11 years and the court had passed an interim order in 2005 directing the administration to protect their properties.