New Delhi: As representatives of the Kashmiri community told ThePrint, twenty-seven Kashmiri Pandit families, who were evicted this month by court order from newly constructed safe houses in the Vesu transit camp in south Kashmir , they now live in tents.
These families, which include 20 small children and 12 elderly people, say that they are currently camping on the grass of the Kulgam transit camp, at the mercy of nature, despite the heavy rains.
Three-year-old Natasha, one of the youngest members of the group and the daughter of one of the evicted Kashmiri Pandits, has been suffering from high fever since July 22 after getting soaked in the rain.
His father, who did not want to be named, said: “We’ve been homeless for a week but nobody cares.”
Nearly 5,000 Kashmiri Pandits returned to the troubled region in 2010 after they were offered government jobs under a scheme launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008, but so far only a fifth of ‘they have been able to live in protected transit camps. Accommodation received. for
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Despite terrorist attacks on Kashmiri Pandits and other civilians since last year, most of them continue to live in rented houses near their workplaces.
These 27 families were housed in prefab accommodation (prefab accommodation) at the Vesu Transit Camp and most of them were allocated an independent housing unit, these employees say their eviction will begin in 2020-21. This coincided with cold and intense winters, which reportedly caused cracks in their prefab homes.
They later shifted to a permanent multi-storied building constructed on the premises of the transit camp to provide accommodation to the returning Pandits at the behest of BJP’s Kulgam district president Abid Hussain Khan, but later decided to open -se to then migrants. Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner Kashmir TK Bhatt became the victim of an FIR lodged by Bhatt, in his complaint, had accused these experts of “encroaching” on government property.
A legal battle ensued and the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court earlier this month ordered the eviction of these families, saying they had violated rules governing allotment of permanent apartments to Pandits in kashmir
Meanwhile, the prefabricated huts in which these families used to live have now been allocated to 40 more families. When contacted for comment, the current relief and rehabilitation commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir, Kuldeep Krishna Siddha, said, “Just because they are Kashmiri Pandits does not mean that they can play their emotional card to commit acts il· legal”.
“We’re going to see what’s the best we can do to accommodate them,” he said.
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test the families
In January 2021, a very heavy snowstorm hit south Kashmir, causing some houses to collapse. It was declared a natural disaster by the Union Territory Administration.
Several families living in the Vesu transit camp alleged that their prefabricated accommodation had cracks due to inclement weather, as well as leaking roofs.
Sunny Raina, president of the Vesu Welfare Committee and a Kashmiri Pandit government employee, also wrote a letter to the Kulgam District Magistrate on the matter asking them to repair their residences or shift these families to new buildings permanent buildings that are being built on campus. , but reportedly received no response.
Their letter, a copy of which has also been accessed by ThePrint, says: “These prefabricated huts built in 2010 are past their intended life and can collapse at any time in bad weather. Small children, women elderly and many pregnant women are living in transit housing which has made it difficult for them to survive in these accommodation.We request you to move us to new buildings.
BJP’s Kulgam district president Abid Hussain Khan confirmed this. He told ThePrint that he was the one who suggested in January 2021 that these families move from their respective prefabricated residences to the multi-storey safe quarters under construction at the Vesu campus.
Work on these permanent structures began in 2015 to provide accommodation to returning Kashmiri Pandits.
Khan claimed that he had also informed the deputy commissioner of Kulgam about the situation.
Khan said, “There was 7-8 feet of snow and that’s why the front gates were kept closed.” Water entered the houses through the roof. The little kids were getting wet. I couldn’t see his status. That is why I took these families to these houses under construction in a multi-storey building and kept them there by opening the locks. These houses were empty at that time.
The then Jammu and Kashmir Migrant Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner TK Bhatt responded to their move by lodging an FIR.
According to documents filed in court, Bhatt had asked the concerned government departments to initiate investigations against these employees. Some employees who had moved to secure multi-storey houses were not even paid their salary for the month of January.
In response to the FIR and departmental action against them, these families moved the court, which granted them interim protection from police action and allowed them to stay in the same apartments until the matter was heard. The court also ordered the government to pay their salaries.
Shortly thereafter, the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner submitted an allotment list with the names of 208 employees who were accommodated in this multi-storey building.
On this, these 27 families stated in court that many people included in this list had come to the Valley in 2018, long after their arrival.
However, in July this year, the court ordered the Jammu and Kashmir government to evict these Kashmiri Pandit families.
In his order, Justice Sanjeev Kumar of the High Court observed that “it is true that the accommodation provided to the petitioners is a prefabricated structure”. But still, if the petitioners were not satisfied with the accommodation allotted to them or felt that the accommodation allotted to them was devoid of basic amenities, they could challenge the government order”.
The judge further said: “But they thought they were the law in themselves and as expatriates they were allowed to violate the law and take possession of government property.” He also said that the petitioners had occupied the quarters constructed by the government while retaining the previous residences.
“If the courts allow this anarchy, there will be chaos in society, which will endanger the rule of law itself,” he said. That is why it is necessary for the police power of the state to take strict action against those for whom breaking the law is like playing with a toy.
According to Khan, at least eight apartments under construction since 2018 are occupied by BJP councilors and a sarpanch. He said, “They have been living in these buildings since 2018, which is completely illegal as these houses are only for employees with the special PM package.”
Kulgam BJP councilor Satish Zutshi said party councilors, including himself, were shifted to this apartment in 2018 by the administration due to security threats.
In March 2022, the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court directed the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner not to remove these counselors from these flats unless their threat perception is properly assessed based on inputs of security and were not provided with alternative accommodation.
“What should these families do now?”
These 27 families who are camping on the camp lawn cannot even return to their prefabricated accommodation as the authorities allotted them to 40 other Pandit families in May 2021.
Sunny Raina said, “The government had promised us that if it can’t get our property back (in the valley), it will build us new houses. These transit camps were for temporary stay. But now they are on the verge of collapse. I have a small child and elderly parents.We moved to new houses because we had no other option.If the roofs of our houses fall in, who will be responsible for our deaths?
Raina said she was “stuck in the middle”.
He says, “Our old houses have been given to someone else and the new houses have been closed. We can’t even go back to Jammu because the government has locked us inside the transit camps because they can’t guarantee us security from terrorism outside ‘el What should we do now?
Advocate Salih Pirzada, representing these families, alleged that “the government is not even allowing my clients to return to Jammu just to save their image”.
They wonder: ‘What are these people doing now? Die by militancy, die by the collapse of the roof or die in bad weather?’
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