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"Resolution of Kashmir Issue Must Include the Kashmiri Pandits" PDF Print
Written by Rep. Frank Pallone   
Tuesday, 20 June 2000 00:00

People from all ethnic and religious groups have suffered from the violence, be they Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. But the most forgotten victims have been the Pandits. Recently, it was reported by the Indo-American Kashmir Forum that Mr.Karl Inderfurth, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, reiterated the view that the Pandits should not be ignored in upcoming discussions of the Kashmir issue.

In a meeting with the National Advisory Council on South Asia at the State Department earlier this month, Mr. Inderfurth acknowledged that the U.S. has not always mentioned the Pandits in its statements on the Kashmir issue, but assured the Council that the displaced status of the Pandits is a matter of concern to the U.S. As a U.S. official who has frequently sought to give more attention to the plight of the Pandits, I am encouraged by this recent statement. I will urge our State Department to continue to draw attention to the suffering that the Pandits have endured and continue to endure in its statements on the Kashmir issue. I have also called for the UN and international organizations to devote greater attention to what I consider a case of ethnic cleansing that is afflicting the Kashmiri Pandit community.

Mr. Speaker, India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has indicated that his government would be willing to meet with Kashmiri groups to address their concerns. But the Prime Minister has stressed that Pakistan should not have any role in this dialogue, which is in fact an internal matter for India. Some of the separatist elements within Kashmir the same organizations involved in the terrorism that has uprooted the Pandit community are clearly working to promote greater Pakistani involvement in this process. Mr. Speaker, there is overwhelming evidence of Pakistani support for the continued terror campaign in Jammu and Kashmir. Indeed, Pakistani involvement in terrorist activities in Kashmir has been acknowledged by our State Department, and a Congressionally-appointed advisory panel has recommended that Pakistan be designated as a government that is "not cooperating fully" against terrorism. The Pakistani government itself has at least tacitly acknowledged, under heavy international pressure, that it must take action to curb the network of militants that has taken root on its soil.

The one aspect of this tragedy that frequently is overlooked is the plight of the Hindu community of this region, the Kashmiri Pandits. As I have gotten to know the Kashmiri-American community, and hearing about the situation facing the Kashmiri Pandits, I have become increasingly outraged not only at the terrible abuses they have suffered, but at the seeming indifference of the world community. At the same time, I am impressed by the dignity and the determination that the Kashmiri Pandits have maintained despite their horrible conditions. And I am touched by the deep concern that the Kashmiri-Americans feel for their brothers and sisters living in Kashmir, or in the refugee centers set up in India to accommodate the Pandits driven from their homes in the Kashmir Valley.

Mr. Speaker, in the great international debates, it is sometimes all too easy to overlook the so-called "small" problem of one persecuted ethnic group. I hope that the United States and India, as the world's two largest democracies, will join together to address this humanitarian catastrophe in an effective and humane way.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 September 2010 03:36
 

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