On Wednesday 9th September 2015, the Indo-European Kashmir Forum and Hindu Council UK were joined by members from various Hindu Organizations, MPs, Hindu social and political activists, Councillors, the Indian High Commission’s First Secretary Sunil Kumar and Hindu Priests at a conference in the UK Houses of Parliament. The conference was held to commemorate the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus’ Martyrs’ Day, which falls on 14th September.
The commemoration conference was opened with special prayers by a Hindu Priest and followed by the Rt Hon Marcus Jones MP formally welcoming the guests.
Krishna Bhan, President of the Indo European Kashmir Forum opened the conference and expressed her profound gratitude to Marcus Jones MP for his continued commitment and support to highlight the plight of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus in the UK Parliament. She also congratulated him on his appointment as a Minister for the Department of Communities and Local Government. Krishna explained and gave a short introduction on the commemoration of Kashmiri Pandits/ Hindus’ Martyrs’ Day, which falls each year on 14th September which is to observe across the globe since 1989/1990 in commemoration of the persecution that was inflicted upon the community. On this day we pay homage to those brave men, women and the Indian Security Forces who sacrificed their lives to save and protect us and their country.
Vijay Sazawal, the International Co-ordinator, IAKF,ICKF,IEKF, spoke eloquently and gave a brief history of the Valley and stated,” Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus are the aboriginal inhabitants of Kashmir Valley in the disputed State of Jammu & Kashmir, going back to 5,000 years of continuous living in what was once called a ‘paradise’. The uneasy balance between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus had its ups and downs but withstood the test of time, even surviving through the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 until Pakistan introduced battle hardened Mujahedeen into Kashmir in 1988. By 1989, the covert war spilled on the streets and the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindu minority bore the brunt of atrocities unleashed by Islamic zealots-both local Muslims and Muslims mercenaries dispatched from Pakistan. On 14 September, some prominent social leaders of the Kashmiri Pandit/Hindu community were gunned downed. Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus recall this day as Martyrs’ Day. It is ironical that as we meet in this historic chamber today, two events: 9/11 in New York City and 9/14 in Srinagar â€“may have happened years and distances apart, but the infamy will live for ever. The panic and tension that such events created in the minds of survivors was unbearable.
As per official figures presented in the Indian Parliament about 65,000 families, consisting of nearly 300,000 souls are registered as “migrants”. Out of these approximately 40,000 families are residing in the Jammu region, 19,000 families around New Delhi, and the rest are dispersed over the rest of the country. The internal displacement of Kashmir Pandits/Hindus from Kashmir occurred 25 years ago. He further stated that the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus continue to be internally displaced with little hope of returning back to their homeland â€“Why? However, The Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus expectations went up when BJP won a massive mandate in the 2014 Parliamentary elections, because for the first time since 1990 the return of Kashmir Pandits/Hindus was part of the election manifesto in the national elections.
The latest state assembly election were held in J&K in November and December 2014.The winner was the PDP who allied with BJP to form the new government led by the Mufti family. One year later, the return of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus remains a distant dream. The Kashmiri Muslim society has changed in the last 25 years since Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus were driven out, Wahabism is the fastest growing sect with new mosques funded by oil sheikhs dotting the landscape. There are Islamic State flags fluttering at rallies, trends portend a worsening situation for minorities in Kashmir. The return of those 60,000 Kashmiri Pandit/Hindu families who fled from Kashmir appears to be a dream for now. Ethnic cleansing is a reality in Kashmir because the J&K Government is indifferent to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus and the Central Government in New Delhi is incapable of imposing the Indian Constitution in J&K for the protection of minorities.
Umesh C Chander, Chairman of Hindu Council UK, related experiences of his personal visit to the Valley. He said he visited the homes of Kashmiri Pandit/Hindu families and he found them in extremely dilapidated and run down conditions. He also had interacted with some Valley based Kashmiri Pandit/Hindu Families.
Sanjay Jagatia, Director/General Secretary HCUK, Sanjay Jagatia explained that “According to International law: GENOCIDE: is described as the systematic destruction of all or a significant part of a racial, ethnic, religious or national group and ETHNIC CLEANING: has been defined as the attempt to get rid of (through deportation, displacement or even mass killing) members of an unwanted ethnic group in order to establish an ethnically geographic area.
In most cases of genocide and ethnic cleansing the world governments have united together and declared sanctions and other punishments to those who have committed these horrible human rights abuses and Human Rights Agencies have raised awareness of the plight of those affected…..but the on-going plight and issues of our brothers and sisters – the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus remains “forgotten” – Not a single government or human rights organisation has come out in support of their plight. There is also virtually no media coverage of the issue which is still taking place today……Instead, we have some Politicians in this country having debates about the issues and hardship faced by the Kashmiri Pakistanis – who in fact are the real perpetrators of the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus – what a shame. He sincerely hoped that this conference today will hopefully highlight the plight of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus.
As widely reported in the Indian media, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the issue of Kashmir has no place to be decided by the UK Government or any other western government ……..but it will be decided by the Indian and Pakistan governments and the people of Kashmir and all the other governments who have remained silent for all these years about the plight of our Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus have no right now to decide our future.
In the past 15 years or so, the successive Indian governments in the state and Centre have failed to bring even a single family back. Now with Prime Minister Modi at the helm his Government has the Kashmir Pandit/Hindu rehabilitation as a key point of their manifesto. The Narendra Modi government has flagged the return of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus to the Valley with “dignity, security and assured livelihood,” an issue on which it will lay special emphasis during its 5 year tenure.
According to media reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to work for the welfare of displaced Kashmiri Pandits/Hindu refugees and all those killed in militant violence in Jammu and Kashmir. He said “the days of their neglect were over. I have seen first-hand the condition of Jammu and Kashmir, where 20 per cent of the population is displaced. We want to settle these displaced people and give them opportunities of earning a livelihood. Indian governments in the past had shown apathy to these people, but now those days have gone. The displaced Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus are our brothers and sisters and our family. Their joys and sorrows are ours. Their development is our determination and we will move forward on this through a number of schemes”.
Keeping his promise, we have recently seen that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated the return of displaced Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus to the Valley by announcing a complete rehabilitation package for them. The scheme focusses on people who had fled the State during ethnic cleansing in 1990 because of terrorism. The Ministry of Home Affairs is all set to roll out an enhanced package per family for re-construction of their houses in the Valley, which were either destroyed or burnt during terrorist attacks. The proposed rehabilitation package includes providing security and jobs for the returning Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus. It also provides a provision of repair of the houses which were burnt or destroyed during ethnic cleansing. The scheme provides for repurchase of their houses which were disposed of in distress before fleeing the State.
Chuni Chavda, Ex-Councillor & a Political Activist spoke on Article 370.He said” Any country is governed by its constitution. Almost all countries have written constitutions. When constitutions are drafted and finalised, every little care is taken to ensure that the country is protected from every angle, that each and every inch of the land is properly secured from every corner and that all citizens of the country are treated equally.
However, it is not so with Bharat (India), I regret to say those who agreed to partition, did they ever think of cutting their own mother into two? Has anyone ever thought of the pain suffered by us at the time of partition and are still suffering now?” Doing away with Article 370 will lessen pains of Indians considerably.
Chuni went on to explain what is article 370?
It grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir and relates to Temporary, Transitional and Special, Temporary is no more than five years and certainly not seventy years. So what is holding us? Yes, you guessed it right â€“ it is the Muslim vote bank and why Special Provisions? Again it’s about Muslim vote bank. No other state has got Special Provisions. What does Special Provisions mean? It means that with the exceptions of Communication; Defence, Finance and Foreign Affairs Jammu and Kashmir Assembly can veto all other laws that the centre enacts pertaining to the state. Put it differently, this is a country within a country.
Article 370 allows Jammu and Kashmir to hold the entire country to a ransom whenever it chooses.
Jan Sangh and its successor Bhartiya Janta Party have always demanded abrogation of Article 370 as has the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh, has opined that integral review of Article 370 is overdue.
Dr. Shyama Prassad Mukherjee was a cabinet minister in Mr Nehru’s government, but resigned in protest against Article 370 and formed the Jana Sangh on 21st October 1951. Dr Mukherjee described Article 370 as Balkanisation of India, and he went on to quote “One country, two constitutions, two prime ministers and two national emblems. At one stage there was a law that Indians from other parts of India needed permits to visit Jammu and Kashmir. Even today there is a law that prevent Indians from other states buying land in Jammu and Kashmir. As a protest against such divisive rule, Dr. Shayama Prassad Mukherjee visited Jammu & Kashmir without necessary permit and was arrested on 11th May 1953 on entering the state. He was held in a rundown house and died in mysterious circumstances on 23rd June 1953. His death is still a mystery.
One does not need to be a politician to understand the need to abrogate controversial and divisive Article 370.Abrogation of Article 370 will unite Indians and will make our borders with Pakistan more secured. I am conscious that the present Indian government led by PM Narendra Modi is working towards abrogation of the article. It is up to the people of India to give him their undivided support to make this possible.
Bharti Tailor, Executive Director of Hindu Forum of Europe spoke of IEKF’s effective way of working with the Hindu Forum of Europe for a number of years. She explained the effective lobbying for the plight of Kashmiri Hindus at the European level should raise the awareness of this issue among European countries and offered her organisations full support to hold a similar conference in the European Parliament.
Shuban Kotwal, President of KPAE described the horrors and pain of the exodus that he and his family have gone through in 1989 /1990. He and his family had to leave their home finally in 1990 due to the extreme dangerous conditions that prevailed and made it difficult for Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus to live in their place of birth. His wife’s uncle a prominent lawyer, a political activist and the President of BJP State Unit was gunned on his door step on 14 September, 1989.He was the first victim of the militancy in the Valley.
Sneha Roy, a Durham University Student and the youngest speaker at the conference said that it is indeed a pleasure to represent the youth and present my thoughts in such a knowledgeable gathering. Since most of my preceding speakers have spoken about the general plight of the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus, I would like to draw your attention to a different perspective of their predicament- that is the issue of transitional identity of this community. It is worth giving a thought that a majority group, revered as an elite populace, living in the valleys of the Kashmir have now reduced to few hundred families and are craving for their elementary and long-lost identity.
It is a convenient task to debate on people who have lost their lands, chased out of their roots and been abducted of their genuine rights for political and religious impetus. But the larger question is will the fate of the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus, who were once the most advanced social group, continue to struggle for their existential rights and face the harsh corporeality?
I do not mean to patronize or demean any problem; but social evils like poverty and terrorism tends to manifest themselves predominantly in a structured manner. Social stigmas attached to one’s identity wordlessly pushes people into the dungeons of undetermined and latent harms. Identity politics and struggle to attain basic rights have now become a part of the extended identities of the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus.
As I stand here today, I am extremely concerned about the functionality and logistics of the law making and the peace-building institutions. We may echo the sentiments of the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus that they have been bearing since decades now, but we are yet to prove and affirm that their miseries are going to terminate anytime soon.
Yogesh Sharma, from the Jammu Kashmir Study Centre, talked about Article 35A.The Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre in India is looking to challenge the Article. If JKSC succeed in getting this article legally challenged, then the Article 370 has no relevance. For further information visit :-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article35A Constitution of India
Shiban Durani, former IEKF President mentioned that every effort should be made to continue raising the awareness of the plight of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus at all forums.
Finally, Chuni Chavda moved the motion for the abrogation of Article 370.Vijay Sazawal seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved. Krishna Bhan read a poem as a tribute to the Martyrs and closed the conference at 17.30 by thanking the speakers and all the conference participants.
September 14th marks the beginning of atrocities for the exiled Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus which they suffered at the hands of terrorists in 1989. It is a sad reminder of what Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus have been through because it is on 14 September, 1989 when the killings of majority Pandits/Hindus of the Kashmir Valley began. The selective killings led to the ethnic cleaning of the Pandits, Hindus and Sikhs from the Valley and finally to their tragic exodus. They became refugees in their own country. In 1989 on September 14th Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, a prominent lawyer, a social activist and the Vice President of the State unit BJP, was gunned down by militants outside his own house in Srinagar .He was the first victim of the militancy in the Valley which followed the barbaric killing of many more Valley Pandits/Hindus and these killings were committed against Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus by militants in the name of ‘Azadi’-Freedom.
Terrorists targeted many prominent Pandits/Hindus. The women were tortured, gang-raped and murdered. In the name of Jihad, Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus were systematically eliminated .The holy war did not spare even children. Massacres such as Wandhama, Nadimarg, Chattisinhgpora and Sangrampora took place in 1990s and 2000s.Over 12000 Kashmiri Pandit/Hindus men, women and children were killed just because of their faith and for upholding the values of democracy and Indian ethos. The tragedy is that those who committed such heinous crimes are still walking free and they have not been punished. Justice has not been served to Kashmiri Pandits / Kashmiri Hindus.
The night of 19 January,1990 ,the ISI and the mosques became hyper active all over the valley .There were slogans and songs blaring from all mosques saying “Islam khatra mein hai ” that Islam is in danger.””Aes gacche Pakistan, Batav roste,Batnev saan”, we want Pakistan in Kashmir without Kashmiri Pandit/Hindu men but with their womenfolk” It was a night of chaos and madness, killing Pandits/Hindus all over the Valley. Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus recall the horror of waking up to hear the command to convert, die or escape.
The Human Rights Organizations have failed to notice the mayhem against Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus in the Kashmir Valley.
14 September is being observed by Kashmiri Hindus as the Kashmiri Hindus Martyrs Day since 1989 in commemoration of the persecution that was inflicted upon the community and they pay homage to those brave men, women and the Indian Security forces who sacrificed their lives to save us.
25 years ago, on 19th January 1990, the biggest ever exodus of people happened in India. The minority Hindus of Kashmir, Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus, fled the valley leaving behind their homes and homeland to save themselves from persecution at the behest of Islamic extremists/terrorists. Tens of Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus were displaced due to Muslim militancy in Kashmir valley. After the massacre, the local Hindu temples were destroyed, as were the houses of the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus. Every year since that day, Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus dream of being able to go back to their homes one day. The socio-political situation continues to be volatile, with the displaced Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus beginning to lose their cultural identity. In spite of a law passed in the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly, several complaints are pending in the J&K courts related to encroachment of Pandit/Hindu properties. Moreover, time and again, Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus have complained against the selective removal of their names from electoral lists.
The forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus and Sikhs has turned into the ethnic cleansing of over 70,000 Hindu families and over 18,000 Sikh families who lost their homes with some of them still living as refugees in the camps in Jammu and Delhi. The Jammu and Kashmir Government in the Indian Administered part of Kashmir have refused to open any political or economic space to allow refugees to exercise their right of return to settle in their homeland.
President – Indo European Kashmir Forum & Director of Education – Hindu Council UK