Govt orders withholding salaries of striking Kashmiri Pandit employees

We’ll leave jobs if our lives are threatened: KP employees
Kashmiri Pandits PM Package employees during a protest against the killing of a fellow woman employee in Batwara area of Srinagar on Tuesday May 31, 2022. The employees have been asking for transfer from valley amid spike in targeted killings here.[Representational Image]
Kashmiri Pandits PM Package employees during a protest against the killing of a fellow woman employee in Batwara area of Srinagar on Tuesday May 31, 2022. The employees have been asking for transfer from valley amid spike in targeted killings here.[Representational Image] File: Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Jammu: The J&K administration Thursday issued orders to stop the salaries of Kashmiri Pandit employees protesting in the Valley for months demanding their relocation to a safer place amid their killings by terrorists.

The Labour Department of Kashmir and Additional Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, had on Wednesday issued orders to stop the salaries of Kashmiri Pandit employees on strike in the Valley.

In his order, Deputy Labour Commissioner (DLC) Kashmir directed all Assistant Labour Commissioners across districts in Kashmir to stop the salaries of these employees for September.

The DLC sought the leave accounts of all the employees of the department and said, “Further, salary for September 2022 should not be drawn in respect of those PM package employees, who have remained absent during September.”

A similar order has been issued by the ADC Anantnag.

Irate over the orders, striking employees intensified their agitation, which entered 133rd day on Thursday, calling the order harassment and arm-twisting move to break their agitation.

Amid slogans, hundreds of employees held protests under the banner of All Migrant (Displaced) Employees Association Kashmir (AMEAK), one of the organisations spearheading the agitation.

“It is a step towards harassment of the community. It is a conspiracy against us. We honestly performed our duty for the last 10 years in Kashmir until the selective killings of our employees like Rahul Bhat threatened the life and dignity of our community employees in Kashmir,” a protester told reporters here.

“What is our crime? Why are we being targeted and killed,” said another employee.

The employees said that on the one hand they were getting letters with death threats from the terror outfits, on the other they were being forced to come to work and risk becoming sitting ducks.

“Please provide us security which is your prime duty. Why are you threatening us with these orders? We are not afraid of stopping our salaries or anything else. If our lives are threatened, we will leave jobs,” said a Kashmir Pandit leader leading the agitation. “We want to tell the government you cannot torture us and our families.”

Nearly 4000 Kashmiri Pandits began working in different departments in Kashmir after their selection under the Prime Minister's employment package.

Since the killing of their colleague Rahul Bhat, they have been on an indefinite strike with a demand for their relocation outside Kashmir.

Bhat was shot dead by terrorists inside his office in Budgam district of central Kashmir on May 12.

Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit employees have already returned to Jammu and are holding regular protests at the office of the Relief Commissioner while their colleagues in Kashmir are on protest at their camps.

The government has repeatedly attempted to end the impasse with the assurance of their relocation to safer zones within Kashmir.

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