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State, Centre vie to pacify Pundits

New Delhi, March 29: The recent massacre of 24 Kashmiri Pundits in Pulwama has returned the focus on a community that has long been neglected by the state and the Centre.

Chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is now trying hard to stop the Pundits’ exodus from the Valley while at the Centre, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani has assured them that the government will go all out to help the community.

Advani told a delegation of Pundits the Centre had taken note of their concerns and would set up a panel to oversee their security and employment, education and health facilities. The beneficiaries will include those Pundits who have fled Jammu and Kashmir. “We have decided to revive a system which was earlier (in practice) in the home ministry in 1994 to address the grievances of the Kashmiri Pundits,” Advani said after meeting the team.

Caught in a bind over last Saturday’s massacre, Advani knows if there is an exodus of Pundits from the Valley as a result of the killings, the country will be playing into the hands of enemies. When he visited the site of the massacre, he had said: “Leaving now will mean playing into the hands of our enemies.”

But Advani is also aware he cannot force the Pundits to stay back.

An equally aware Mufti government is desperately hoping for a halt to the imminent exodus. The state authorities now plan to send to Pulwama a delegation of prominent Kashmiris from Delhi that will persuade the Pundit families to stay on in the Valley.

The delegation that met Advani was led by M.K. Kaw, president, All India Kashmiri Samaj. He rejected the state government’s proposal to resettle Pundits in Mattan and Kheer-Bhawani in the Valley.

“The state government is talking about the healing-touch policy. But it is concerning only one particular segment of society. What about us' Who is going to talk about our rehabilitation and resettlement'” Kaw told reporters after the meeting.

Advani told the delegation he would take up all these issues with Mufti on Monday when Central leaders will meet state government representatives to discuss security.

Among the key topics which will come under scrutiny on Monday is the question whether Mufti’s healing-touch policy has demoralised the police, thus sparking more violence.

“This massacre should awaken the government to the dark designs of Pakistan and make it more responsive to demands for providing adequate and foolproof security to the remaining members of the Hindu and the Sikh communities in Kashmir,” said a memorandum the delegation handed to Advani.

Home secretary N. Gopalaswami and special secretary Ashok Bhandari were present at the meeting that lasted over an hour.

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