SAMBA — A Kashmiri migrant Pandit delegation met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday during his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Samba district and briefed him about their various issues including “targeted killings” of the community members and the resultant protest by those employed under a prime minister’s package.

Social activist Amit Koul, who was part of the delegation, said they have invited Mr. Gandhi to their Jagti township along the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and that he is likely to visit the community on his way to Kashmir.

“We had a very good interaction with Mr. Gandhi and we briefed him about the issues of the community, especially the prime minister’s package employees who were provided jobs by the previous UPA government led by Manmohan Singh. They are on protest over the past six months in Jammu and their salaries have been withheld,” Ms. Koul said, as per the news agency PTI.

Nearly 4,000 Kashmiri migrant Pandits are working in different departments in the valley after their selection under the prime minister’s employment package announced in 2008. The package has two major components — 6,000 jobs for the youth from the community and building as many accommodation units for the recruited employees.

However, many of the employees fled to Jammu after one of their colleagues, Rahul Bhat, was shot dead inside his office in Budgam district on May 12 last year in what was described as a case of targeted killing. They are on a strike demanding their relocation out of the Valley.

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“We also raised other issues of the community including the need for enhancement of relief. We requested him to visit our township Jagti or send a delegation but he assured us that he will visit Jagti himself and raise their issues within and outside Parliament,” Ms. Koul said.

Another member, Jitendra Kachroo, said he has come all the way from Uttar Pradesh, where he has settled after migrating from Kashmir, to meet Mr. Gandhi with other members of the delegation.

“He (Gandhi) is a very nice human being and a very simple person. He patiently heard our issues and it was heartwarming that he had time to listen to us,” Mr. Kachroo said, adding that they were initially supposed to meet him as a 13-member delegation but several more joined them and “we raised issues which the community is facing”.

Charging the BJP with using the community to further its political agenda, Mr. Kachroo said, “They do not really mean to solve the problems of the Kashmiri Pandits because for them it is a political agenda for them to spread hate on the basis of religion. “We used to live together in Kashmir — both Muslims and Hindus — as we share culture, dressing, and even surnames. There was never such a type of atmosphere, and we all were living together,” he said.

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‘Lieutenant Governor owes an apology to Kashmiri Pandits’

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha should apologize to Kashmiri Pandits for telling them that “they should not be begging”, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has said, following the meeting with members of the community in Jammu during his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra‘.

“When a delegation of Pandits met Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor, he told them that ‘they should not beg’. Lieutenant Governor ji, Pandits are not begging, they are asking for their rights. Lt Governor owes an apology to the Pandits,” Mr. Gandhi told a gathering at the end of the day’s Yatra at Satwari in Jammu.

Rahul Gandhi also raised the issue of restoring Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood, terming it “the biggest issue”. The Congress leader said that “non-locals are running Jammu and Kashmir and gobbling up businesses in the region”.

“The biggest issue is the restoration of statehood, and Congress will do everything for it. Jammu and Kashmir was run by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Today, it is being run by outsiders,” he said.

Mr. Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which began in September from the southern tip of the country in Kanyakumari and has travelled around 3,500 km, is set to conclude with a mega rally in Srinagar, expected to be attended by leaders from nearly two dozen national parties.

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