A major chunk of the 6,000 employees, mostly from the Kashmiri Hindu community posted in the Valley, have not reported back at their workplaces after the recent targeted killings of civilians in the last six weeks.
The Jammu and Kashmir government is nudging the employees, recruited under Prime Minister’s special package, to rejoin duties though it is not put pressure on them or set any deadline. A few orders issued by the administration to report back had to be withdrawn after the employees argued the targeted assassination betrayed confidence to come back to the Valley.
“We are not forcing but coaxing them to rejoin,” a senior government official told News 18. Many employees had left the Valley in panic after the first targeted killings of minority members in the first week of October.
PK Pole, Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner said many employees have started to come back to Valley after spending Diwali with their families in Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country.
“Some 1,800 have already joined and others are gradually joining,” he said. “Through your medium, I am requesting them to attend duties,” he said.
Many employees, however, told News 18 from Jammu that they are reluctant to join services “some of us work in the far off places and without security”.
Among the 6,000 staffers, 2000 fresh appointees joined this month only. Out of the 4,000 others, more than 2,000 serve in Kashmir’s education department, many in remote villages of the ten districts in the Valley.
It is these staffers who have flagged the security concerns, saying even if they are staying in enclaves guarded 24/7 by security forces, their stepping outside for work makes them vulnerable.
“My parents are worried about my joining back duty. They used to call me three times in the day before these killings. Imagine how they are feeling now,” said a teacher.
He said he and his wife are posted in remote areas of two different districts and commute in public transport. “Though I live in a secure transit camp of Sheikhpora near Budgam, we have to travel long distances. After the killings we won’t feel that safe,” he said.
His colleagues have urged the government to allow them to continue working from home till the time there is an improvement in the security situation. “Apparently there have been no issues in this district where we work but the fear and anxiety overwhelm us,” another employee said.
Last week, the Valley Posted Migrant Employees (VPME) held a meeting in Jammu asking the government they won’t be able to join duties till the security climate and fear psychosis prevail in Kashmir. They implored the authorities to be considerate to their plight given that the minorities are prime targets.
“Our families don’t want us to join duties. It is not our fault. I have worked in the Valley for the last three years but it is a matter of life and death this time,” an employee leader told the gathering. Fifteen civilians were killed from October to mid of November in a string of targeted militant attacks.
Among them, one Kashmiri Pandit chemist, a Sikh teacher, her associate from Jammu and five labours from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were killed. Five locals including a cop too were assassinated in the last 45 days. October alone witnessed the killing of 17 militants, 13 civilians and 12 soldiers — 11 in Rajouri and Poonch districts.
Post killings, the government told the employees to avoid their workplaces till there is security revamp. Though it has not set a stiff deadline or issued strict instructions, the administration wants the migrant staffers to rejoin duties in the Valley. Their settling down is seen as a precursor to encourage more people from the uprooted community to return to their hearths in Kashmir.
The employees also want more accommodations and a security-friendly climate in the Valley. Though the government has built many Kashmiri Pandits colonies across the Valley, there is a dearth of accommodation. As of today, there is accommodation for only 1,500 employees. “We are building more accommodation for the employees and that issue will be sorted out,” Ashok Pandita, Jammu and Kashmir relief commissioner told News 18.
Pyare Lal Pandita, a migrant leader, said the government can post the employees near the highly secured district and tehsil headquarters. “Till the time their confidence is restored, they can work from these central offices and avoid going into depth areas which makes them vulnerable,” he added.