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Stop Seeing Kashmir Killings through Lens of Religion; Backbone of Terror Broken: J&K L-G Manoj Sinha

People in the rest of the country should stop seeing the targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits through the lens of religion as members of other faiths have also been killed in the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha has said.

While being interviewed at the Indian Express’s Idea Exchange programme, he also spoke about the security and job challenges for Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley and ensuring they don’t move out again.

“I think we have been able to build trust among the common people, who want development and progress. For a long time, J&K was run for a select few but now the government is working for the people,” he said.

The targeted killings are unfortunate, said Sinha. “But people of other religions have also lost their lives. Therefore, let’s not look at this through the prism of religion,” he said.

The anger after the May killings is justified, Sinha said. “For the sake of security, we posted most Kashmiri Pandits in the district headquarters. Someone working in the rural development department will not be posted in the city but in a village near the district headquarter. Some have been relocated to tehsil headquarters which our police have declared secure,” the L-G said.

It’s strange, said Sinha, that a Kashmiri local no longer lives in Kashmir. “Those who are capable move to Delhi, Chandigarh or go overseas. Only people from the middle class and the lower-middle class live in Kashmir. Apart from the teachers, there’s a huge number of employees working in government offices,” he said.

The lieutenant governor said that there is no official record of a rehabilitated person having left Kashmir. “There were some questions about people leaving for Jammu after the killing of Pandit Puran Bhat in Shopian district. But then most of them were residents of Jammu,” he said. During the apple season, they go to their farmlands, added Sinha.

“Even the people of Kashmir Valley have been martyred. There have been a couple of incidents of labourers being killed,” the L-G said.

Kashmir is a part of India, so people from anywhere in the country have the right to work here, he said.

Speaking about allegations have some journalists being harassed by the administration, Sinha said, “I feel the press has full freedom. There’s no threat to individual rights.”

However, he said, the government will intervene if people are found indulging in “other” activities.

On demands by Kashmiri Pandits to restore their temples that were destroyed, he said, “Not just temples, we are also trying to revive churches, mosques and gurudwaras. Several temples have been restored. Last year, we built a church in Srinagar.”

Speaking about the issue of the political processes in J&K, Sinha said he meets people from all parties and discusses local and individual issues. He added that he had called for a meeting before the Amarnath Yatra, which everyone, except PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, attended.

After a long time, the Panchayati Raj has been reinstated in Jammu and Kashmir, he pointed out. “It has been a short while but the fund, function and resources given to Panchayat Raj representatives in J&K are probably higher compared to other states. There are around 3,000 elected representatives,” he said.

Assembly polls will be held in the near future and that will be decided by the Election Commission, said Sinha.

Asked about the row over the film The Kashmir Files, the L-G said everyone has a right to express their opinion on any subject. If anyone does not agree with the film, they can make another one, he added.

Talking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that “Dil aur Dilli ki duri nikaalni hai,” Sinha said the administration has been successful in achieving the objective to a great extent. “Roads and tunnel work worth Rs 1 lakh crore have been going on. Due to the challenges posed by topography, works are delayed but connectivity is increasing. Travel time between Jammu to Srinagar has shrunk from 10 to six hours,” he said, while pointing to the various infrastructure projects, medical facilities, educational institutes, etc, being set up.

Sinha added that ground-breaking ceremonies for industrial investment worth Rs 38,080 crore were done by the PM on June 24. More proposals will be actualised once infrastructure facilities like electricity and water are readied, he added, also maintaining that there is an enabling environment with reforms in land laws.

Terrorist killings have also reduced by more than 60 per cent, he said. “The backbone of terror has been broken. Today there are approximately 61 terrorists in the Valley. We will strictly deal with not just those who kill but even those who run the ecosystem. Our policy is simple, don’t touch the innocent and don’t spare the guilty,” he said.

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