‘Our life revolves around a few hundred metres. It can’t get more miserable’

Off the primary street in Sheikhpora, a slender stretch results in a cluster of crimson and yellow constructions. Armoured cars of the J&Okay Police and paramilitary forces line the lane and guard the gate to the colony. Policemen ask for the id of each and every passerby, permitting one in handiest after scrutiny. Just throughout the gate, a couple of hundred citizens take a seat underneath a tent with an image of Rahul Bhat.

Two days after Bhat was killed inside the tehsil office now not some distance from this residential advanced, the anger some of the citizens is palpable. “Paani sar ke upar se ja chuka hai (We have reached the end of our tether),” says one of the crucial citizens, a central authority schoolteacher, refusing to offer his title.

On Saturday, nobody from the colony, supposed to deal with Kashmiri Pandit migrants who took up paintings within the Valley underneath a Prime Minister’s employment bundle, went to paintings. Neither did their youngsters attend faculty, rather then those that had checks.

The call for is unanimous: “If the government cannot provide us a safe environment, it should move us to where we feel safe.” For maximum, that location is Jammu.

The citizens additionally stated that whilst a lot will get stated about Kashmiri Pandits underneath each and every dispensation, “very little gets done”.

Hoping to appease tempers, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha Friday met Bhat’s circle of relatives and accredited the call for to offer a role to his spouse, and endure the learning bills of his five-year-old daughter.

But on Saturday, the protest gave the impression able for the lengthy haul — now not some distance from the place Bhat’s automobile continues to be parked within the colony, the place he lived for with reference to a decade. A check in went across the tent the place folks put indicators towards their names for fund assortment to obtain a public deal with gadget. The citizens defined that many had misplaced their voices from over two days of sloganeering.

About 300 households reside in two-room apartments within the Sheikhpora ‘transit accommodation’, lots of them sharing a flat. In many households, multiple individual is in govt provider, and several other go back and forth for paintings to other districts, as much as 70 km away. Most of them paintings within the Education, Rural Development and Revenue Departments.

“Some people start as early as 6 am, take the train or bus to far-off places and come back after dark,” says Roshan Lal, whose daughter is a schoolteacher at Anantnag in South Kashmir.

Colonies like Sheikhpora have been constructed solely for migrant Pandits transferring again to the Valley, to reside in ‘transit’ sooner than their reintegration into society. Sheikhpora, some of the first, was once constructed 14 years in the past and stays the most important such colony, surrounded via a concrete wall crowned via concertina twine. When the preliminary reaction was once deficient, the federal government had moved in over 30 Pandit households from Budgam, who hadn’t migrated from Kashmir, to encourage agree with.

The different such fenced colonies are in Vessu in Qazigund, Haal in Pulwama, Mattan in Anantnag, Veervan in Baramulla, Tulmulla in Ganderbal and Nutnusa in Kupwara. Work is directly to construct six extra Pandit colonies — Marhama in Bijbehara, Wandhama in Ganderbal, Fatehpora in Baramulla, Keegam in Shopian, Sumbal in Bandipora and Khullangam in Kupwara.

Perhaps none has noticed protests of the type that broke out on Friday, regardless that few are shocked on the govt reaction that adopted. On Friday night time, the Sheikhpora colony gates have been locked from out of doors, to stay the citizens in when they protested over Bhat’s loss of life, undeterred via police lathicharge and teargas shelling.

“We were told that LG Sinha will come, but he sent his Principal Secretary and that is not enough,” one of the crucial citizens says. Principal Secretary Nitishwar Kumar met with the protesters after the Raj Bhavan introduced acceptance in their calls for.

A resident, Sanjay, says the safety workforce first close the gates on Friday morning itself. “We protested as some parents had to drop their kids to school. Then they opened it.” By 1 pm, the crowds had swelled and requested to be allowed to march until Lal Chowk, town centre in Srinagar. However, safety workforce didn’t permit them.

Many of the protesters say locals residing out of doors the colony had supplied water and enhance to them as they sat at the street underneath the solar.

Teenagers Saksham and Kartik, putting on the fringe of the tent maintaining the protesters, say they neglected faculty willingly Saturday. The two upload that they usually don’t really feel unsafe in Kashmir, neither have been they prepared to depart, as one of the most adults sought after.

However, Rahul’s killing has left maximum of them feeling susceptible. “He was a friend to all of us. He was polite, he went to work, took care of his family. He would not be in anyone’s way,” says Sheila.

A resident says they felt caged, and not using a freedom to transport freely, or with out worry. “At times, there seems no purpose to these gated colonies. Every day, we have to move out for work, without any security. Our children have to go to school. We may be safe during the night, but we are vulnerable during the day.”

Colonies like Sheikhpora have been constructed solely for migrant Pandits transferring again to the Valley, to reside in ‘transit’ sooner than their reintegration into society. (Express photograph via Shuaib Masoodi)

A schoolteacher who lives within the colony talks about fellow Pandit lecturers killed previous, including: “Every killing is a setback. Now when I go to school, my students worry for me. And when I have a minute to myself, I catch myself looking at the gate to see who is entering.”

He provides that in spite of years of provider, and changing into used to residing in gated colonies in a spot the place folks personal multi-storey homes, “one can’t live in constant fear”.

A resident says the supply of extra protected lodging amenities has eased some power, however residing stipulations stay dangerous. At lots of the houses, plaster is coming off damp partitions. “There are still many instances of families cramped into a single flat. Our life revolves around a few hundred metres. Is this what you call life? It can’t get more miserable than this.”

Pandits who hadn’t migrated from the Valley and have been shifted to Sheikhpora say their lives have handiest were given worse. “We are not even treated on a par with others who came from outside,” says one in all them. “We are like second-class citizens here.”

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