Mufti opposes separate Pandit enclave

Modi arrives in Kashmir today amid shutdown call by separatist leaders

Srinagar

The Majlis Itihad-e-Milat, a group of religious organisations in Jammu and Kashmir, on Thursday cautioned the Centre against any move to create separate settlements for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. The group, however, said the Pandits were welcome to return and settle at their ancestral places.

“Kashmiri Pandits are an important part of our society. They are welcome to return to the Valley and settle at their ancestral places or any other place alongside their Muslim brothers.

“But the move to create separate settlements for them in the Valley would have serious consequences,” Mufti Bashir-ud-Din, the group’s president, told the media here. Mufti Bashir-ud-Din is also the Grand Mufti of Kashmir.

Besides, the Grand Mufti said, the plan to have a separate settlement for the migrant Pandits — for which 850 hectares of land had been identified — was aimed at dividing the Kashmiri society on religious lines.

He accused the central government of trying to change the demography of the Valley by planning to settle RSS workers in the garb of Kashmiri Pandits under the scheme.

The Mufti’s remarks came on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Kashmir Valley, which may witness a shutdown called by separatist leaders. This will be Modi’s first visit to J&K since he became the prime minister: his party, the BJP, is bitterly opposed to any special status for Kashmir. Almost all separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Shabir Ahmad Shah, have supported the shutdown call.

Modi will chair a high-level security review meeting at the Badami Bagh headquarters of the Army’s 15th corps in the Valley. He is also to inaugurate a 240 MW hydro-power project in the border town of Uri in Baramulla district.  He will earlier fly to Jammu to open a 25-km rail link between Katra and Udhampur. This will directly connect the Mata Vaishno Devi temple with the rest of the country.

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