Kashmiri Pandits mark 'Martyrs Day'
New Delhi, Sep 14 (UNI) Marking 17 years of the mass exodus of the community, Kashmiri Pandit organisations, including the All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS) and the Kashmiri Samiti, today observed-- 'Martyrs Day'-- in memory of people who lost their lives to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Members of the community held protest demonstrations, rallies, and candlelight march near Jantar Mantar and urged the government to address the issues raised by them.
A six-member delegation of the Kashmiri Samiti called on Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil at his residence and demanded political and economic settlement for the displaced community.
''We have been labelled refugees in our own country. We should be politically and economically made independent. We demand that our rights as the citizens of India be restored,'' Samiti Political Affairs Chairman Sunil Shakdhar said.
He said till the community's return to the valley their rehabilitation in other parts of the country was a must.
Mr Shakdhar said the Home Minister gave them a patient hearing and assured that the Government will consider their demands.
Earlier, former BJP leaders Uma Bharti and Madan Lal Khurana addressed a sit in protest by the members of the community.
The All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS), which launched a national awakening campaign against terrorism, held a demonstration and candle light march, which was led by senior BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra.
''We want the whole nation to be aware of the threat that terrorism poses to India. People from all walks of life must be aware about the threat that they face,'' Samaj president M K Kaw said.
He alleged that the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir Government had failed to address issues raised by the pandits.
Mr Kaw alleged the recent spate of terror attacks-- Mumbai, Malegaon Ayodhya and Doda-- was a pointer to the nefarious designs of the militant organisations.
''These attacks must serve as an eye opener for one and all to terrorism which the Kashmiri Pandits have been facing from the past 17 years. The country should learn from its mistakes,'' he explained.
Members of the displaced community observe September 14 as the 'Martyrs Day' or Samhu Balidan Diwas' in memory of terror victims in Jammu and Kashmir.
Mr Kaw said Pakistan was sponsoring terrorism in the country and Jammu and Kashmir was being used as a safe haven by militants to spread the menace in India.
''Pakistan sponsored terrorism is being routed through Jammu and Kashmir into the country.... as a nation we have to be alert to such threats,'' he added.
''There are scores of active sleeper cells in the country and they must be checked,'' he said.
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