Members of the Kashmiri Pandits’ Association (KPA) gathered at Shivaji Chowk in Vashi yesterday to express solidarity towards one of their community leaders’ hunger strike, which he had undertaken from January 30 to February 14 at Porbandar, Gujarat.
Although Vinod Pandit, head of All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee, called off the strike on February 14 after the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government assured him that his demands would be examined, community members residing in the satellite city decided to support his demands by holding a peaceful demonstration.
KPA President Rajen Kaul said, “Vinod Pandit was just representing the demands of the community members. We are in complete support of his demands, some of which include initiating dialogue with Pakistan for facilitating visit to the ancient Sharada Peet temple in PoK, one time compensation for overaged migrants and passing the pending Kashmir temples and shrines bill in Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly.”
One of the prime reasons for holding the demonstration in Navi Mumbai was because the satellite city is known to house a majority of Kashmiri Pandit families. KPA Trustee Ashwani Bhat said, “Navi Mumbai is home to over 50 per cent of the total Kashmiri Pandits residing in Mumbai.
The reason could be cheap property rates, which suited the budget of the community members, especially after the 1989 exodus. The families of most of our community members are concentrated in areas like Kharghar, Nerul and CBD Belapur.”
Kamothe resident Rakesh Roshan, who is a member of the KPA youth forum, mentioned that most of the times, the voice of the community went unheard and that they were trying to create awareness about a number of issues the community was facing. Roshan said, “We wanted to draw people’s attention towards our plight, especially because we are living as refugees in our own country for over two decades now.”
The six demands
>> Dialogue with Pakistan for facilitating visit to Shardha Peeth temple in PoK
>> Establishment of Shardha Peeth University in Jammu and Kashmir
>> Probe into the multi-crore temple/shrine land encroachment scam in Kashmir
>> Passing the pending Kashmir temples and shrines bill in J&K legislative assembly
>> One time compensation for overaged migrants
>> Special employment package for non-migrant Hindus of Kashmir valley
Community centre in Kharghar
Kashmiri pandits were given a 750 sq metre land from CIDCO in Sector 8 in Kharghar to construct a community centre where they can hold activities. Named by the members as Sharada Sadan, the ground plus four-storeyed structure will house a dispensary, library and a community hall. The centre is expected to be operational by mid-year.