NEW DELHI: Pitching for the abrogation of Article 370, Kashmiri Pandits feel the provision granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir is one of the major reasons for their exodus from the Valley, along with terrorism.
They emphasise that the Article is discriminatory in nature as people from Jammu and Kashmir, including separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, can purchase properties anywhere outside the state but people from rest of the country cannot do so in Jammu and Kashmir.
"Article 370 is the reason why exodus of Kashmiri Pandits took place. Had it not been there, the exodus would not have happened," said Vijay Raina, general secretary of Kashmiri Samiti, a nodal organization of Kashmiri Pandits.
The entire community of Kashmiri Pandits moved out of the valley, starting early 1990 in the wake of threats and targeting by militants.
While most of them took refuge in Hindu-dominated Jammu, many others went to other places like Delhi.
From time to time, successive governments at the Centre have made commitments towards ensuring return of the community to the Valley but there has been no forward movement so far, mainly because terrorism continues in Kashmir and the Pandits do not feel that they would be safe there.
"Article 370 is worse for Kashmiri Pandits than anyone else because due to it Hindus remained a miniscule minority in the Valley and became easy targets of militants," Raina explained.
He added that the provision should be scrapped at the earliest as it is the "biggest enemy of our country".
Rajinder Kaul Premi of Kashmiri Samaj, another prominent organization of the Pandits, said the Article is discriminatory and prevents Jammu and Kashmir from being at par with rest of the states of the country.
"When we were thrown out of Kashmir, we got accommodated in rest of the country, where we bought land, got education and jobs. But because of Article 370, nobody from rest of the country can purchase land or get jobs in Jammu and Kashmir," he pointed out.
He said even Kashmiri separatists, like Geelani, can purchase properties anywhere in the country but people from outside Jammu and Kashmir cannot do so in the state.
"Abrogation of the Article will strengthen national integration and enable flow of private funding into the state. It will also strengthen the secular fabric of the state," Premi added.