Srinagar: Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley, already rattled by the spate of civilian killings over the past month, are now angry and upset over an “undertaking” sent by the Jammu and Kashmir Police.
According to Sanjay Tickoo, who heads the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, the police initially asked the families to house security personnel guarding them in their homes, and when the families refused, sent the undertaking, which states that the forces will not be held responsible for their security.
“Police guard has been established in the village (name of village not disclosed due to security reasons) by district police Shopian for the security of Kashmiri Pandits residing in the village of…,” reads the declaration, dated 18 October, and accessed by ThePrint.
“We the Kashmiri Pandits residents of the village solemnly declare without any pressure or threat in presence of witnesses mentioned below that we don’t need the police guard. We are safe without the police guard… We will never blame the police or the government for not providing security and will be responsible on our own.”
The 54-year-old Tickoo told ThePrint that the undertaking was sent to at least 500 families living in villages across South and North Kashmir, of whom about 250 signed it under “pressure”.
“The J&K police had asked the families to give at least two rooms inside their houses for 10 security personnel from the Jammu & Kashmir Armed Police (JKAP). The families cannot do that,” Tickoo said. “They themselves live in two-room apartments, plus they have female members and children. How can you expect them to accommodate security personnel inside their houses, that too 24X7?” he added.
“When families said no, the police made them sign this declaration form,” he said. “The government and security agencies are abdicating their duty and responsibility to protect us. They want us to declare that if we are killed tomorrow, they are not the ones to be blamed.”
Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Pandurang Kondbarao Pole admitted that an undertaking was sent to the Kashmiri Pandit families, but denied that there was pressure on them to sign it.
“You have to understand that we have a limited force and not every family can have security personnel allotted to them,” he said.
“As far as the undertaking is concerned, this is a requirement of the system. We don’t have any ill intentions but we do not have any bunkers available to keep the security forces in those villages at the moment. We had to ask the families to accommodate them for the time being, until we make space for the security forces. This would not have been permanent,” Pole added.
“We understand that families must be uncomfortable, but in that case, they have to sign this undertaking. This is not Delhi or Mumbai, this is Kashmir. We are dealing with militancy here. Everything has to be on record.”
There has been a call to provide security to the Kashmiri Pandits, following the slew of civilian killings that began on 5 October, when four people were shot dead, including Makhan Lal Bindroo, owner of Bindroo Medicate, Srinagar’s most famous pharmacy, and a vendor from Bihar. Days later, a Sikh and Hindu teacher were singled out and shot dead in a Srinagar school. Since then, there have been at least five more civilian murders by militants.
‘Muslims need to support us’
The Kashmiri Pandits also claim that their security concerns are not being addressed.
“We have been writing to the L-G and IG of Kashmir asking for an appointment to discuss the security threats to us but it’s been five months and we have not received any response from them as of yet,” claimed Ratan Chacko, 50, another Kashmiri Pandit living in the Valley.
ThePrint sent emails to the LG’s office, and texts to IG Vijay Kumar and the Srinagar SSP Sandeep Chaudhary for comments but did not receive a response.
Sandeep Kaul, a 29-year-old Kashmiri Pandit youth who works for Parag Milk Foods, now called on the Muslims in the Valley to stand by them.
“I have complaints to the majority in the Valley. I understand they have been isolated by the system but they should send a loud and clear message supporting us,” he said. “I’m appealing to the Muslims to take out a peace march, which will enhance our confidence.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)