Last week, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti kicked up a storm when she used the analogy of cats and pigeons while talking about the ongoing issue of rehabilitating displaced Kashmiri Pandits.
“As of now, we can’t put them like pigeons among the cats… We are very clear on that," Mufti had said, while speaking about the government’s decision to set up transit accommodation for returning migrants to stay at till they feel safe to return to their original homes.
Mufti’s seeming reference to Pandits as pigeons and Kashmiri Muslims as cats resulted in an uproar by opposition parties, but the next day, she clarified that by “cats”, she only meant militants who have killed Pandits in past.
The explanation, however, came too late to stem the tide of criticism by opposition parties and pro-freedom leaders.
Kashmiris, on the other hand, raised pertinent views on the controversy in the humour and sarcasm-laced style of criticism that has become the hallmark of social media commentary.Here are some of the responses.
In the aftermath of the comment, leaders of opposition parties and separatist leaders had trained their guns at Mufti over what was described as her hunter-hunted analogy.
Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Geelani had said that Mufti had “lost her mental balance after attaining power” and said her statement was humiliating and defaming for Kashmiris. “There is no threat to Kashmiri Pandits if they return to their native places,” he said. “They can peacefully live with their Muslim brothers here.”
Opposition party National Conference also asked her to apologise. “Mehbooba has defamed and demonised Kashmiris by inferring that Kashmiris are allegedly some sort of killers and hunters and Kashmiri Pandits are unsafe in their company and hence need to be isolated from them," its spokesperson, Junaid Mattu, said in a statement.
Member of the Legislative Assembly Engineer Rasheed reminded Mufti of the Handwara killings in April and the 2009 Shopian rape and murder case. He said that Mufti was right in likening Kashmiris to cats, “because cats can’t move beyond their courtyards and you have let forces free to act like wolves and they kill Kashmiris at will and places of their choice.”
Reports that the government had proposed constructing separate townships for displaced Pandits returning to the Valley had met with a lot of opposition and apprehension that such a move could polarise the state. The People’s Development Party-Bharatiya Janata Party combine later said that there were no plans of setting up an exclusive township for Kashmiri Pandits. Mufti, in her clarification over the cats and pigeons remark, said that the transit colonies for migrants will be “inclusive,” with 50% reservation for migrants of other faiths.