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Comment on Senator Brown's Letter to Sect. of State Hillary Clinton Regarding Discussions on Kashmir PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Vijay K. Sazawal   
Thursday, 08 October 2009 00:00
Dr. Vijay Sazawal, International Coordinator of IAKF, discusses important backround details surrounding the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.

On October 6, 2009, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wrote a letter to the Honorable Secretary Hillary Clinton regarding the uncertain future of Kashmiri Pandits.
The Indian Prime Minister (PM), Dr. Manmohan Singh, is travelling to the U.S. in November. Before that he travels to Srinagar towards the end of this month. Last month the PM announced a financial package amounting to nearly 1,600 crores for rehabilitation of Pandits with offers of jobs and home grants to lure Pandits back to the Kashmir valley.

Unfortunately, the PM and the Indian government continue to address concerns about Kashmiri Pandits as if they left their homes and hearth due to a natural calamity like a flood or an earthquake. The reality is that these hapless and non-violent people were driven out by a Jihad raging in Kashmir in 1989-1990. When Pandits were ethnically cleansed out of the valley, the majority Muslim community either stayed mute and indifferent, or encouraged their Hindu neighbors to leave out of a genuine concern for their safety, or participated - directly or indirectly - in forcing Pandits out. Whatever way you look at it it was ethnic cleansing. Even the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on June 11, 1999 declared that "Kashmiri Pandits were subjected to near-genocide conditions before they fled."
So how realistic is it to assume that Pandits will return merely by offers of phantom jobs (as the State government has already nixed the idea) and increased monetary grants from the Central Government in New Delhi for upkeep and rebuilding  of homes in Kashmir? It is not realistic at all. It is, in fact, a mockery of the justice, and pain and suffering that Pandits have endured in various refugee camps as they saw their culture and collective community headed towards oblivion.
Senator Brown has emphasized in his letter that the J&K State Government has to do much more than distribute Indian tax-payers money to attract Kashmiri Pandits back to the State. It must open up political, social and economic space in the valley for Pandits to return with dignity and without fear of another exodus. It must create conditions so that civil society in Kashmir plays an important part in restoring confidence in the Pandit minority community. The government must restore State cabinet (political) positions to Pandits as it used to be in the past. It must pass the Kashmiri Pandit Temple Management Bill that had been slated for State Assembly discussion two years back and was mysteriously shelved. It must follow-up on recommendations of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to J&K Government to pass enabling legislation in the State Assembly to declare Pandits as a minority. But above all, we must all learn from this horrific experience so that such expulsion will never again happen. So a commission of inquiry must be set up to go into ethnic cleansing of Pandits and develop institutional safety mechanisms that will prevent a repeat in the future.
We may recall that it was Senator Brown who in 1996, as a Congressman, led the effort to highlight the plight of Kashmiri Pandits in the U.S. State Department Annual Human Rights Report.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 September 2010 04:02


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