Speech at the 55th Session of the UNCHR -- United Nations Commission On Human Rights Print
Thursday, 01 April 1999 00:00

Statement by Captain S.K. Tikoo (Ret'd.), on behalf of the Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, an NGO in Consultative Status – Category II with ECOSOC, United Nations.

Agenda Item 11(e): Religious Intolerance.

 Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentleman,

I come to you in supplication, not as a speaker.

I come with a diverse portfolio, with an acute consciousness of my heritage, my culture my injured pride and my continuing trials.

Most of all, I come to you with my memory.

I am a member of the Hindu minority of Kashmir; that anomalous entity generically known as the Kashmiri Pandit.  I am old.  I know that I am more than five thousand and seventy five years old, for that is the age of my calendar – the oldest known, and more accurate than any.  I have been ritually handed down thoroughly worked out almanacs year after year through millennia.

You might say that I am supposed to be the repository of accumulated information in several areas and an unbroken cultural heritage that is special because it is unique.  I have given to the Indian sub-continent a plethora of riches in terms of thought, art and literature.  All this is well documented.  What, perhaps, is not is that our miniscule minority has been hounded, hunted, dispossessed, externed and persecuted by the Islamist extremists abetted by external forces.  I find it ironical that the conscience of the world has not awakened to our grim plight despite ten precious years of our being in the wilderness of pain, destitution and homelessness.

Even after being pushed out of our millennia old homeland in 1990 and after, deprivations against Kashmiri Pandits have not eased.  We continue to be butchered at regular intervals for the only fault that we happen to be non-Muslims and, therefore, an impediment to the fundamentalists’ objective of total Islamisation of Kashmir.  In this second operation of ethnic cleansing, the victims were those Kashmiri Pandits who had dared to stay back despite all threats and provocations even after most members of our community were forced to flee at the point of gun.  The first such large-scale organised attack came on 21st March 1997 when eight Kashmiri Pandit young men were taken out of their homes and done to death in a terribly gruesome manner at Sangrampura.  And even as the shocked community was wailing and mourning for them, foreign trained terrorists struck at Wandhama village in Ganderbal, in the vicinity of one of the most referred Hindu shrines of Kashmir – Tulamulla or Khir Bhavani.  All the four Kashmiri Pandit families living in the village were wiped out most brutally on January 25, 1998.  Some were blasted by a grenade and burnt alive inside their house.  Only eight year old Vinod survived as he managed to hide himself in a hay-stack.  Others including an eighteen month old child were riddled with bullets.  Some others had their throats slit till all blood gushed out of their bodies.  In all 23 men, women and children met their gory death.  Their blood had not yet dried when four young Pandits – all teachers – were killed in Gool village in Udhampur.  Worse still some terrorist outfits in various guises are now operating death traps in the Kashmir valley, to use them as hostages later and cover their gory acts of ethnic-cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits.

When the world is poised to enter a new millennium, our rights to our habitat, life and cultural heritage are sought to be usurped by an a-historic premise.  The premise that ethnicity issues from religion.  That culture is a function of scripture.  That nationhood is synonymous with religious identity.  This was the pan0Islamic dream masquerading as nationalism – feeding off violence and seeking alms of compassion at the same time.  A Janus-faced entity that was given the epithet of Jehad – holy war – was created, and weaponized.  The notion of religion as the underpinning of nationhood was sought to be legitimized.  The architects of the so called Jehad created a modern doublespeak to outflank reproof.  The systematic attempts at ‘cleansing’ Kashmir of me became a pogrom, the details of which have been heard by this forum earlier and need not be repeated.  What must be emphasized, however, is that my precious heritage and my history has been made a casualty in the process.  I, the historic being, who boasted of the earliest chronicles known to modern historians in the form of RAJATARINGINI of Kalhana Pandit written circa 1100 A.D. was suddenly made achronous – out of sync with its own being.  The Muslim of Kashmir shared my ethnicity and my history.

He also shares my catholicity.  It was the Muslim of other longitudes who dreamt of, or purveyed the dream of, the standard of Islam at the head of an all conquering, all subjugating force.  A tidal wave that would sweep the ‘infidels’ away.  That innumerable human lives, a living heritage, a great culture and ironically the very spirit of Islam would be trampled underfoot was of little or no concern.  The standard of Islam – a great religion signified by its name which means peace – became the pennant of fear.

It mattered little to the practitioner of this crypto-faith that he killed a large number of Muslims in the process of trying to kill me.  His brand of Islam would never tolerate me because I was a Kafir – an infidel – in his view.  The Muslim casualties were but an occupational hazard.  He used the notion of religion to crush the perception of another religion much in the same way as he had sought to use pan-Islamic notion to buttress his territorial claims.  The territorial ambition of our crypto-Muslim are equally a-historic.  He may draw a map which is pan-Islamic, but a map is not a territory.

A territory is a land where people are anchored, where their culture, historical memory and concept of hearth subsist.  My territory is the hallowed ground where my ancestors still walk.  It is my habitat where consciousness slices through the gates of social and personal memory.  It is my home, my hearth with its dusks and dawns and robin and thrush and the breeze and the heritage it breathes.

I want to make a declaration today.  I want to declare in this forum that a right to live in my habitat with all its personal, social, cultural, intellectual and historical memories is a fundamental human right to life, livelihood and dignity.

In spite of the fact that today all my above rights stand violated, I solicit the support of this forum in my struggle for restoration of my rights.

Thank you.