Centre keen on return of Pandits to Kashmir: Jitendra Singh

With the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the state high on the agenda of the Narendra Modi government, Union Minister Jitendra Singh on Monday called for the creation of a "conducive atmosphere" for them to go back to the Valley.

Suggesting that the migrants should be inspired to go back to their place of birth, he said, "The very culture of Kashmir, the composite culture which the Kashmir boasts of, is incomplete without the presence of Kashmiri Pandits over there."

Singh,  minister of state in Prime Minister's Office, hoped the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir would take into considerations the "priorities and concerns of the community" and lay down conditions for their return.

"I would say that I am strongly in favour of the return of Kashmir Pandits but of course the return has to be with dignity and with security and we have to create an atmosphere where the Pandits feel prompted and inspired to go back to their place of birth," he told reporters.

There are about 62,000 registered Kashmiri Pandit families in the country, which migrated from the Valley due to the onset of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir in the early 1990s. About 40,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families are living in Jammu, around 20,000 in the Delhi National Capital Region and about 2,000 families are settled in other parts of the country.

The minister's comments come after the state government recently conveyed to the Centre its assessment of at least three sites identified by it in Jammu and Kashmir for setting up colonies for displaced Kashmiri Pandits.

Union home ministry officials have advised the state government to finalise the land as early as possible so that construction works of colonies for Kashmiri Pandits could be started.

"Nobody will like to stay away from their place of birth if the situation is conducive for return. Of course the conditions for return have to take into account the priorities, the concerns of the Kashmiri Pandit community. I am sure the coalition government (there) would keep itself abreast of it so that the Kashmiri Pandit community is not left out because if it is left out then it is not only going to be disadvantageous for the community per se but it is going to be disadvantageous for others as well," he said.

Singh, who represents Jammu and Kashmir's Udhampur constituency in the Lok Sabha, said those who tend to directly or indirectly come in the way of return of Kashmiri Pandits are not only harming them but the displaced community also.

"They are depriving themselves the rich heritage of Kashmiri which actually flows from the fountain head of Kashmiri Pandit," he said.