In a significant move, separatists have decided to hold talks with Kashmiri Pandit migrants to discuss their return to the Valley, marking their first "serious attempt" to bring back the community which was forced to leave over 26 years back due to militancy.
Making the announcement during his sermons after the Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar, moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said there is no precondition for the return of Pandits who are "part and parcel" of Kashmiri culture and ethos and they can support any political ideology while being in the Valley.
"We have decided to form a joint committee from the resistance (separatist) camp -- both groups of Hurriyat Conference and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front led by Mohammad Yasin Malik -- which will interact with members of the Kashmiri Pandit community in the state and elsewhere as part of efforts to pave way for their return to Kashmir," he said.
Mirwaiz said the joint committee would hear out the Kashmiri Pandits to understand their reservations about returning to their homes in the Valley.
"This is not just a lip service but a serious effort for bringing the Kashmiri Pandits back to the Valley as they are part and parcel of our culture and ethos," he said.
The Hurriyat chairman said the separatist camp wanted the Pandits to return to their native places instead of being nestled in isolated townships.
"They are free to support whichever political ideology they want...They may support India. That does not deprive them of their rights as Kashmiris," he said.
This will mark the first serious effort by the separatists to bring back the Pandits who were forced to leave the Valley starting from late 1989 after the onset of militancy.
At present, there are about 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families, who have moved from the Valley to Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country.
Various governments have from time to time devised policies for return of Kashmiri Pandits but those attempts have been unsuccessful. Even the present People's Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party government is working on such a policy.
Later, Mirwaiz led a protest rally against the new industrial policy of the state government, alleging it was part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's design to change the demography and occupy the resources of the state.
"There is no clarity on whether land in industrial estates will be given to outsiders. Four statements have come from the government within a short span of time. The government will do well to make its stand clear or face the consequences," he said.