Some Pandits Took Flat Keys And Disappeared

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by Umar Mukhtar 

SRINAGAR: The Union Territory administration has initiated the process of recovering part of the accommodation that was built to provide the shelter to thousands of Kashmiri migrants in Jammu. There are almost 200 flats at various places across Jammu which are either under illegal” occupation or simply locked for many years.

Last week, the Relief Commissioner (migrants) issued notices to the migrants in whose name close to 200 flats have been given by the authorities. They are supposed to respond by March 10, failing which the Commissioner may initiate the process of recovering them so that they are issued to the families waiting for the accommodation.

With a central grant, the Jammu and Kashmir government set up a series of housing projects in Nagrota, Muthi, Butanagar, and Purkhoo localities in Jammu city and the ambitious Jagti township in Nagrota periphery. Funded under the Prime Minister’s Rehabilitation Plan, the then Prime Minister flew personally to witness the allotments in Jagti and other places. Dr Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister had announced the Rs 1618.40 crores plan in April 2008.

However, it was soon found out that part of the accommodation remained under lock and key with nobody living. In certain cases, the flats were housing people who had not been allotted the same.

Reports appearing in the media said notices have gone to 93 individuals whose quarters were found in illegal occupation by people lacking any allotment. Besides, another 100 notices have gone to the allottees whose flats are locked for many years. An official privy of the issue said that some flats are locked for more than three years.

The government was aware of the crisis for a long time. The issue cropped up many times in the erstwhile state assembly. It was after these debates that a process of re-verification was initiated in 2018. A re-verification process was initiated in September 2019, amid reports that the “empty” flats number more than 200.

“We have issued a notification after we found that 93 flats have been occupied in violation of norms,” T K Bhat, Relief Commissioner, was quoted saying by The Hindustan Times. “It’s a beginning and we are trying to do a thing as per the law. These flats are locked out since long.”

Shadi Lal Pandita, who heads the Jagti Tenement committee in Nagrota, told the newspaper that the accommodation must go to the genuine migrants. “Some of them have moved to Delhi, Bengaluru and other cities. Some of them have gone abroad,” Pandita was quoted saying. “They have constructed their own houses and are living in them but at the same time, there are migrants living in rented accommodations and sustaining their lives on government relief. They are the deserving cases but are suffering.”

Pandita put the number of fats where nobody lives despite allotment at more than 100. “In the past seven years, I didn’t see anyone in those flats. None came to live in them,” he added. He said since some of the families have more members and the flat space is small, they might have moved to rented accommodations.

Jagti Satellite Township that Congress-led government set up has 4226 flats. Reports said some of the families who have been given these flats live in their owned properties and have put the flats on rent to other migrant families.

The initiative was part of Farooq Khan’s speech in Gujarat. “First and foremost target for us is that all our Kashmiri Pandit brothers and sisters who had to leave under the threat of a gun, come back with full respect and enjoy their position in Kashmir without any threat or fear,” said Khan, an adviser to the Lt Governor, told India Ideas Conclave, Gujarat. It was in this speech that he talked about Jammu and Kashmir is “a “100% Hindu state”.

“Very few among us Indians know that Kashmir was a 100% Hindu state, those who go there must visit the Kashmir museum and see what is there, which gives you a clear picture of the ancient Kashmir history,” Khan was quoted saying.

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