SRINAGAR: Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit and Reserved Category employees protesting in Jammu since May, have landed in a proverbial crossfire between BJP and LG Manoj Sinha administration talking publicly in contrarian voices. Though presumed to be one, they are talking in two different tones, for their own reasons.

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Lt Governor Manoj Sinha had announced that the striking employees are sitting at home and will not get their salaries. “We provided salaries to employees till August this year after they asked for a cooling period following their departure from Kashmir to Jammu,” Sinha told a presser n Jammu early this week. “The government cannot pay salaries if the employees are sitting at home and not joining work,” Manoj Sinha was quoted as saying during a press conference in Jammu.

Admitting that he is in touch with the striking employees, Sinha said his administration has ensured that all Kashmiri Pandit employees – barring those serving Rural Development Department – are transferred to the district headquarters.

The two sections of the employees left Kashmir in wake of targeted killings and started demanding relocation outside Kashmir. Under a special package, the Kashmiri Pandits were given jobs on the condition that they serve Kashmir. The Scheduled Caste applied for the reserved category positions in Kashmir and was appointed.

Both sections of employees are not working in Kashmir since May 12. They are said to be around 10,000 employees. They routinely assemble in Jammu and demand their relocation outside Kashmir. Recently after LG Sinha talked about the salary halt, they took the protest to the BJP office in Jammu where Ravinder Raina spoke to them. Raina said the babus (Officers) might have misled the Lt Governor.

A day after came a blow from none other than Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences, Dr Jitendra Singh. “I personally believe that nothing is more important than a life,” Dr Singh said. “I would say that if there is a threat to even one life, even a dozen offices could be shut.”

The administration has been insisting that the situation in Kashmir security has improved in the last few years. However, the mass migration of the minority community employees suggests things are not hanky dory. Kashmir political class is supportive of the demands by the employees.

“Shoddy handling of the situation with the employees unabatedly protesting in Jammu is a clear reflection that the situation in Kashmir valley is far from normal,” Dr Abdullah, Jammu and Kashmir’s five-time Chief Minster, said at an event in Delhi. “What else does it reflect? This is contrary to the claims of the Lt Governor and his administration.” He added: “These employees are willing to work. But whose responsibility is it to provide a safe working atmosphere to them.”

“Giving an ultimatum to join otherwise, your salaries will be stopped is wrong. The administration needs to know their problems and try to resolve those,” Mehbooba Mufti told reporters in Jammu when asked about the controversy. “When they are satisfied that the situation in Kashmir has improved, they will return but should not be compelled like this.”

The statement, AAP spokesperson Appu Singh, is “unfortunate” as it shows that “LG administration is trying to crush the voice of these employees through muscle power instead of talking to them.”

Ghulam Nabi Azad has also responded to the emerging situation. “I am of the opinion that Kashmiri Pandit employees be transferred to safer places in Jammu. When the situation improves, they should be brought back,.” he was quoted as having said in Jammu.

The protesting employees may have to decide faster as the controversy indicates they are fast becoming a political issue. Jammu and Kashmir is expected to have elections early next year.

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