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'Kashmiri pandits need minority status in JK'

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, May 10: Minister for the newly-created Minority Affairs Ministry A R Antulay today said his first priority would be to create conditions conducive for safe return of Kashmiri pandits to the valley and then take up with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the matter of securing a minority status for them in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Antulay also said his Ministry would work for securing a minority status to Jains too.

Addressing his first press conference after taking over as the Minister, Mr Antulay said Kashmiri pandits had become refugees in their own homeland and they faced a lot of problems which need to be solved on a priority basis.

''Securing minority status for them in the state was one of them, but the first and immediate task was to create conditions conducive for their return to the valley and their rehabilitation,'' he said.

''All the Kashmiri pandits I have met tell me that before getting a minority status, they would like more pressing problems like housing, employment and safety in their homeland to be addressed,'' the Minister said.

The issue of notifying pandits as minority in Jammu and Kashmir would be taken in consultation with the state Government, said Mr Antulay. He received a delegation of pandits today who had come to thank him for his good offices in making the Delhi Government give three years extension of service to 300 Kashmiri migrant teachers.

He said he would get full satisfaction only when their services will be regularised, a long standing demand of Kashmiri migrants living in the capital under poor economic conditions.

The Minister said minority was a comparative term. It is not only Muslims or Christians or Buddhists and Parsis who were in a minority, but Hindus too were in a similar state in many states like Punjab, Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir.

He said Jains have been demanding minority status for a long period and the Ministry was now ready to take up the issue seriously.

Replying to a question, Mr Antulay said the main objective behind the creation of his Ministry was to achieve national integration. ''National unity cannot be achieved unless minorities were safe and satisfied. Who in India is not a minority? It is an issue which we cannot overlook,'' he said. The Minority Affairs Minister said he would be making full use of his power, without encroaching upon the spheres of other ministries, to carry out the madate of his Ministry.

He said the rights of linguistic minorities were as important as those of numerical minorities. The Constitution has clearly recognised these rights but unfortunately they are not fully given yet.

Asked about several reports given by the National Minorities Commission but not tabled in Parliament, Mr Antulay said he will see that these reports were presented.


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