Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has said that the country should stop viewing targeted killings in the Valley through the prism of religion, The Indian Express reported on Monday.

Sinha said it was true that many targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits had taken place, but that there was another side to the matter as well. “The country should stop seeing this issue on the basis of religion,” he said. “A lot of other people have also been killed.”

Sinha added: “I want to say that people from the Kashmir valley are also killed. There are also labourers who come from Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand during the apple season… There were two-three incidents, but a [false] narrative is spread.”

He, however, said that he could understand the anger of the Kashmiri Pandit community.

The lieutenant governor also said that it was true that Kashmiri Pandits were suffering on account of a lack of housing. But land has now been made available for 6,000 homes as part of a rehabilitation plan, he added.

“Around 10 days ago, I personally went to two places Baramulla and Bandipura for inspection,” Sinha said. “1,200 homes will be given to Kashmiri Pandits in April; by December next, 1,800 more houses will be allotted. A big housing complex is being constructed in Srinagar and it is our priority to finish the work quickly. We hope all 6,000 houses would be completed soon.”

On December 14, the Centre told the Rajya Sabha that eight Kashmiri Pandits and a Kashmiri Rajput were killed by militants in the Union Territory in the past three years. On July 20, the Centre told the Upper House that militant attacks in Jammu and Kashmir have substantially declined since August 5, 2019, when the special status of the erstwhile state under Article 370 was abrogated.

However, a group of Kashmiri Pandit employees recruited under the prime minister’s rehabilitation package in 2008 have been holding protests since May. They have been demanding that they be relocated to safer places outside the Valley.

The protests began after Rahul Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit, was shot dead in his office in the Chadoora area of Budgam district on May 12.

On Wednesday, Manoj Sinha said that salaries would not be paid to Kashmiri Pandit employees unless they returned to work.

“We have cleared their salaries till August 31,” the lieutenant governor said. “But they cannot be paid salaries while they are sitting at home. This is a loud and clear message to them. They [Pandit employees] should listen and understand it.”

However, Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said that he would prefer that a dozen government offices be closed, rather than one person’s life being under threat, NDTV reported. “Saving a life is more important,” he said.