The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has said the Central government’s special job package was exclusive to the non-migrant Kashmiri-speaking Brahmins or ‘Kashmiri Pandits’ living in the Valley and other Hindus cannot be treated the same.
“‘Kashmiri Pandits’ is a separately identifiable community distinct from other Hindus residing in the Valley like Rajputs, Brahmins other than Kashmiri Pandits, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and many others. It is difficult to accept the contention of the petitioners, who are mostly Kshatriyas, Rajputs, Scheduled Caste, non-Kashmiri Brahmins etc., [they] should be treated as ‘Kashmiri Pandits’,” Justice Sanjeev Kumar observed in a judgement on Tuesday.
The court was hearing a petition where several Hindu groups and Sikhs living in the Valley were pleading to apply for the special job package of 1997 posts provided to Kashmiri non-migrant Pandits under the Prime Minister’s Package in 2009.
‘No merit in petition’
“I found no merit in the petition. The same is dismissed,” Justice Kumar held.
The Centre’s package was approved for the Hindu community which, despite the raging militancy in the 1990s, decided to stay back in the Valley, unlike the significant section that migrated outside J&K.
Lawyer Altaf Mehraj had argued that in the absence of any definition of ‘Kashmiri Pandits’, all Hindus, who are staying in Kashmir Valley and did not migrate like non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits, should be treated as ‘Kashmiri Pandits’.
Justice Kumar observed, “I regret my inability to accept such broad definition of ‘Kashmiri Pandits’. It is true that neither in SRO 425 nor in the Rules of 2009 as amended vide SRO 425 of 2017, the term “Kashmiri Pandit family” has been defined. What is, however, defined in Rule 2(ca) is the term ‘Kashmiri Pandit’, which means a person belonging to ‘Kashmiri Pandit Family’ who has not migrated from Kashmir Valley after 1st of November, 1989 and is presently residing in Kashmir Valley”.
The court stated that in the absence of specific definition of term “Kashmiri Pandit family”, the only way to find out the true meaning of the term was to apply the common parlance principle. “There is no denying the fact that in common parlance, ‘Kashmiri Pandit’ is a community of Kashmiri-speaking Brahmins living in the Valley from generations and are distinctly identified by their dress, customs and traditions etc.,” the court noted.
According to the petitioners, the Government of India in 2009 approved the package for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants but “in many cases, certificates were issued in favour of candidates who carry the surname of ‘Singh’.”
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