The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pundits pack up, govt panics
- Officials force back families fleeing massacre village

Srinagar, March 28: Eight families abandoned their homes in Nadimarg, where 24 Pundits were massacred on Sunday, and headed for Jammu today, only to be brought back by an administration jittery about a renewed exodus from the Valley.

Fearing for their lives, 21 members of eight families left their livestock and property in the care of their Muslim neighbours and boarded a private vehicle for Jammu.

Government officials got wind of their plans and stopped them at Khanabal in Anantnag, 27 km from Nadimarg, late in the afternoon. After much persuasion and the promise of additional security, the villagers agreed to turn back. The group returned to Nadimarg under tight security in the evening.

But the Pundits have told the officers they will stay in the village for three days and then leave for Jammu again.

The government rushed to stop the flight of the eight families because it is worried this could be the beginning of another round of migration among the 10,000 Pundit families that remain in 270 villages across the Valley.

During his visit to Nadimarg after the carnage, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had appealed to Pundits not to migrate, arguing that “this would fulfil the designs of the enemy”.

But neither Advani’s lofty argument nor the requests of People’s Democratic Party vice-president Mehbooba Mufti and senior government officers to the villagers to stay had any impact on the 21 Pundits, who have made up their minds to escape to safety.

Eight members of two families did, however, decide against joining the fleeing Pundits yesterday.

At a meeting in Srinagar this afternoon, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed reviewed the security scenario in the wake of the Nadimarg massacre. The chief minister asked police to reassess the security requirements of the minority pockets and reinforce protection. He stressed the need for joint visits of district police chiefs and deputy commissioners to such areas to instil confidence among residents.

Mufti made it clear that “security lapses would not be accepted” and said the “police need to be fully galvanised to discharge their assigned task of bringing a turnaround in the situation”. Top police and administration officials attended the meeting.

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