Kashmiri Pandits seek refugee status

New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits, along with members of civil society, will hold a protest Sunday on World Refugee Day to demand the government classify them as internally displaced persons (IDPs).

‘We are living in forced exile for over 21 years. The governments of Sri Lanka and Pakistan have provided IDPs status to Tamil and Waziristan refugees (respectively). The government of India should also give us the same status and provide us all the benefits,’ said Rashneek Kher of ‘Roots in Kashmir’, which will organise the protest.

The protestors will also ask the central government to set up an inquiry commission on the reasons for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir.

Roots in Kashmir is an initiative by students and professionals for the rights of Kashmiri Pandits.

‘Our demand includes reconstruction of desecrated and destroyed shrines and temples of Kashmir. Also, we want better rehabilitation of people who are living in relief camps of Jammu and Delhi,’ Kher said.

Hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits fled the Kashmir Valley in the early 1990s when the Islamist insurgency flared up in the state.