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Remembering the Plight of the Kashmiri Pandits PDF Print
Written by Rep. Frank Pallone   
Tuesday, 13 July 1999 00:00

The Pandits, who are the Hindu community of Kashmir, have an ancient and a proud culture. Their roots in the Kashmir Valley run deep. The Pandits have been amongst the most afflicted victims of the Pakistani-supported campaign of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Virtually the entire population of 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits have been forced to leave their ancestral homes and property. Threatened with violence and intimidation, they have been turned into refugees in their own country.

Mr. Speaker, in June, the Pandits received somewhat of a mixed message from the National Human Rights Commission of India. In a positive step, the Commission did accept jurisdiction over the issue of human rights in Kashmir which was a matter of some question because of the special status that the state of Jammu and Kashmir enjoys under India's federal system. But the Commission also announced that it would not term the violence against the Pandits as genocide as has been requested by leaders of the Pandit community as well as myself and other Members of Congress. The National Human Rights Commission also rejected the request to define the Pandits as an Internally Displaced People. The Commission did acknowledge that the Pandits had been victims of killings and ethnic cleansings as part of the militants' campaign to get Kashmir to secede from India.

The National Human Rights Commission has recently set up a committee to address the Pandits' concerns, which includes representatives from the Commission, the Jammu and Kashmir State Government, and one representative from the Pandit community. But, Mr. Speaker, the committee has not yet met.

I am asking my colleagues to join me in signing a letter to the National Human Rights Commission asking that the decisions on genocide and internally displaced persons be reconsidered and that the new committee begin regular meetings. I have often cited India's Human Rights Commission as a model for other Asian nations and developing nations the world over to emulate. It is an example of India's commitment to democracy and the rule of law. I am sure the commission will give serious consideration to these requests by myself and other Members of Congress.

Mr. Speaker, I have been calling along with some of my colleagues in this House for increased world attention to the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits. As I have gotten to know the Kashmiri-American community and have heard about the situation facing the Pandits, I have become increasingly outraged not only at the terrible abuses that they have suffered but at the seeming indifference of the world community. Mr. Speaker, India's government must work to provide conditions for the safe return of the Pandit community to the Kashmir Valley.

I also urge that our State Department continue to hold Pakistan accountable for provoking the current fighting in Kashmir by its support for the militants who have infiltrated India's territory.

Even before the current fighting, there has been a disturbing pattern of massacres of civilians carried out by the militants operating in Kashmir. While it is predominantly Hindus who have been the victims of these attacks, we have also seen attacks against Muslim residents of Jammu and Kashmir who have dared to assist the legitimate state authorities in putting a halt to the violence.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, this is the true face of the insurgency in Kashmir. The militants have transformed a peaceful, secular state in India, one which happens to have a predominantly Muslim population, into a killing field as part of the goal of turning the state into an area under strict Islamic rule. From the standpoint of international stability, this would be a disaster. From the human standpoint, the militants' campaign has already been a disaster as the displaced Kashmiri Pandit community demonstrates. It is wrong to continue to ignore their plight. We must address their concerns and hopefully the Human Rights Commission will do so and reconsider some of the decisions that it has already made.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 September 2010 20:24
 

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