Pandits welcome, but not separate colonies: Kashmir militants

In their movement against the proposed Sainik and Kashmiri Pandit colonies, the usually divided Kashmir separatists on Sunday put up a united front against the Jammu and Kashmir government's controversial plans.

The separatists said they were ''united'' and ''ready'' to foil India's plans to change the ''Muslim-majority character of Kashmir'' by settling ex-army personnel and Hindus who have migrated in separate colonies.

The different factions of Hurriyat Conference and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) have launched a joint strategy to foil the ''government's plans to change the demography of the state and give the Kashmir conflict a communal colour''.

This is for the second time since 2008 Amarnath Shrine Board land row that the separatists have assembled at one platform.

A joint separatists' seminar was held at senior separatist Syed Ali Geelani's residence in Hyderpora. Earlier, Hurriyat leaders were held in house arrest by the police to foil the seminar but were then allowed to go ahead with it.

Speaking on the occasion, the Hurriyat (G) chairman Geelani asked people to unite against the conspiracies of the government to change the demography of the state.

''People should be ready to resist conspiracies aimed at changing the demography of Kashmir. We have to be cautious of India's plans to settle non-locals here. The pro-freedom camp is united. Now it is the people's turn, particularly youth, to unite and foil conspiracies of India to change the Muslim-majority character of Kashmir into minority,'' he said.

Geelani appealed to people to stay away from pro-India parties like the National Conference, Peoples' Democratic Party and Congress.

On the issue of separate residential complexes for the settlement of migrated Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, Geelani said they (Hurriyat) were not against their return. ''They are our brothers. Muslims will welcome them with open hearts. If they government is giving them Rs20 lakh for rehabilitation, let them give them Rs30 lakh, but they must be settled at their native places,'' he said.

Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq voiced the same opinion on this controversial issue which has attracted much debate both inside and outside the Assembly. Mirwaiz said New Delhi wanted to label Kashmiri Muslims as extremists.

''The return of Kashmiri Pandits is a humanitarian issue. Our younger generation might not have seen Pandits, but we will wholeheartedly welcome them back but to their native places. New Delhi wants to label Kashmiri Muslims as extremists and communal and give an impression that Kashmir Pandits are insecure,'' Mirwaiz said.

The government has identified over 700 kanals of land to construct separate townships for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in different districts of the state.

In the ongoing Assembly session, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the government would set up transit accommodation to facilitate the return of migrant Pandits to the Valley.

On the construction of the Sainik colonies for retired ex-army officials, Geelani said it was a ''conspiracy to settle non-locals in Kashmir.'' He said that the Jammu and Kashmir government was following the footsteps of Sheikh Abdullah to settle non-locals here.