Kashmiri Pandits demand quotas in education, jobs

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Monday, December 11, 2006, Source: IANS – Blog this story!

New Delhi: Shouting slogans and carrying banners, around 100 Kashmiri Pandits took to the streets of the capital on the occasion of the Human Rights Day to demand reservations in educational institutions and in government jobs.

“We want justice. We were forced out of our homes 17 years ago and still, the government has not done enough to provide us with jobs. We want reservation in government jobs so that we can return to our own state,” said Puran Pandita, who has been staying in a refugee camp in Jammu after being displaced from Baramulla in 1989.

“There were around 16,000 Kashmiri Pandits in government jobs in 1990 but now, this figure has come down to 5,708. We want these jobs so that we can go back to our own state. We have lost everything due to militancy,” he added.

Puran Pandita was among the 700,000 Kashmiri Pandits, a Hindu community of Jammu and Kashmir, who were forced to leave the valley by militants. Around 50,000 Kashmiri Pandits continue to live in camps.

“People are made to live in sub-human conditions in these camps. We have taken to the streets to demand for our fundamental right to live,” said Puran Pandita. “I was just 10 years when we fled from our house. Later, we learnt that our house was burnt by militants,” he added.

Said Pawan Durani, who works as a sales manager in a multi-national company: “We want reservations so that we can go back to our homes. Today, we are treated like tourists in our own land.

“My mother and I were forced to leave our home one night because militants killed our neighbours. We had no money when we had left for refugee camps,” he added.

Another protester, J N Kaul, who used to own apple orchids till 1989, when he was asked to vacate his farm and leave, said, “The militants had pasted a notice on my nameplate that said I would be killed if I did not leave.”

“Around 2,000 Kashmiri Pandits were killed by terrorists and even after all these years, not a single militant has been punished by security forces. We know who were the people who killed our family members and friends but the government has not done anything to punish them,” he added.

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