Scores of Govt employees detained in Jammu

Scores of migrant Kashmiri Pandit employees demanding a transfer from the Valley and release of salary dues were detained on Wednesday, shortly after they assembled for a protest to press for their demands, officials said.

The employees were supposed to stage a protest outside the Press Club but were not allowed by police.

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As the employees assembled in the nearby chowk and started to raise slogans in support of their demands, the police detained nearly 50 protesters. They were shifted to the Police Lines in a bus.

“We tried to persuade them to disperse but since they were adamant about continuing the protest, we took them into preventive custody,” a government official said.

When asked if prohibitory orders had been implemented outside the Press Club -– the scene of frequent protests — the official said prolonged protests in the area have become a public nuisance.

“There are no restrictions on peaceful protests for half an hour or one hour but they are occupying the space for hours till midnight, causing hardship to commuters and preoccupying the administration and the police,” he said.

Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits employed in the Valley under the Prime Minister’s package moved to Jammu last May following the killing of two colleagues — Rahul Bhat and Rajini Bala — by terrorists.

While Bhat was shot dead inside his office in central Kashmir’s Budgam on May 12, schoolteacher Bala was gunned down in south Kashmir’s Kulgam on May 31.

On February 4, Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said many of the employees had resumed their duties in the Valley and directions were issued to release their pending salaries.

Sinha had said the administration and the security forces were working with dedication to ensure the community’s safety.

However, the protesters claimed that only a few hundred employees had resumed their duties under compulsion while many are not willing to return to the Valley due to a “sense of insecurity”.

Yogesh Pandita, a leader of the protesting employees, said, “We have submitted dozens of memorandums and even met the Lt Governor but all our pleas fell on deaf ears… Maha Shivratri, the biggest festival of the Pandit community, is around the corner but they are not releasing our salaries,” he said.

The protesters said they have been suffering financially since the government stopped their salaries in September.

Appealing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lt Governor Sinha for a “sympathetic consideration” of their demands, Pandita said, “We left Kashmir due to the terrorist threat, which has not faded. If we return, where will we go as we do not have secure accommodation?”

Rahul Pandit, another protester, criticised the government for imposing Section 144 of the CrPC outside the Press Club and said they “are on a peaceful protest for the past 290 days but never blocked traffic or caused inconvenience to anyone”.

“The government is trying to hide the reality from the public and is not even allowing peaceful protests. We are forced to come on the roads as nobody is listening to us,” he said.