Kashmiri Hindus Face Identity Barrier In PM Scheme For Kashmiri Pandits

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court dismissed a petition that sought to include Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs into the Prime Minister's jobs scheme for Kashmiri Pandits

Government jobs were announced for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in 2009 in J&K

Srinagar:

For Navjot Kumar, it's a fight over identity to get a government job in Jammu and Kashmir. A court ruling that he's not a Kashmiri Pandit has shattered his dreams. Like Mr Kumar, over two dozen Hindus living near the Line of Control in Uri sector had qualified for a job under the Prime Ministers special employment package for Kashmiri Pandits.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court, however, dismissed a petition on Tuesday that sought to include Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs into the jobs scheme for Kashmiri Pandits.

The court said every Hindu resident of Kashmir valley is not a Kashmiri Pandit as Pandits have their separate identity and other Hindu castes cannot be treated as Kashmiri Pandits.

"Jammu and Kashmir administration denied us the right (to jobs scheme) on the grounds that Kashmiri Hindus, Rajputs and Kshatriyas do not fall under the Kashmiri Pandit category. The court was our only hope, but the decision was not in our favour," said Mr Kumar, a Kashmiri Hindu.

"The court said Kashmiri Pandits and Rajputs are different. Our community has been discriminated against. We want justice," Mr Kumar said.

Under the Prime Minister's special employment scheme, some 6,000 government jobs were announced for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in 2009. While 4,000 posts have been filled, 2,000 jobs were recently advertised by the Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board.

The controversy started after the centre included non-migrant Pandits in the recruitment package last year. The Hindu groups and Sikhs also demanded their inclusion as they equally suffered during the turmoil and never migrated from Kashmir valley.

The Kashmiri Sikhs say they will go to the Supreme Court as the government's policy to reserve jobs for only one specific community is a clear discrimination.

"Everyone has suffered here, not just one community. Majority and minority have suffered. Minority include Hindus, Pandits and Sikhs. But when you single out Kashmiri Pandit community and say only they have suffered, it is sheer injustice. I'm taking up this case with the Supreme Court," said Jagmohan Singh Raina, chairman of the All Sikh Coordination Committee.

In the judgment, Justice Sanjeev Kumar said, "Kashmiri Pandits is a separately identifiable community distinct from other Hindus residing in the valley like Rajputs, Brahmins, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and many others."

"It is thus difficult to accept the contention of the petitioners who are mostly Kshatriyas, Rajputs, Scheduled Castes and non-Kashmiri Brahmins that they should be treated as Kashmiri Pandits and admitted to the benefits of the Prime Minister's revised package for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants," the high court said.

Kashmiri Pandits welcomed the judgment. They say it is line with Kashmiri Pandit identity, which is distinct from the larger Hindu identity.

"We have a separate identity, culture. Our rituals are different from the rest of the people. If you look at it, the Hindus, even if they live in Kashmir, don't follow Nilmat Puran Kashmiri Pandit rituals, which are altogether different than the rest of the people following larger Hinduism," said Satish Mahaldar, Kashmiri Pandit leader.

The petitioners still maintain that if the Prime Minister's package is meant for those who lived through periods of extreme violence and terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, then people from all sections of society have suffered and should be included.