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Kashmiri Hindus

Kashmiri Pandits seek US govt help in the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in Panun Kashmir

International Kashmir Federation (IKF) marked the 20th year of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus which began in January 1989 on the U.S. Capitol Hill. IKF met with the State Department officials and members of Congress and Senate on January 20 and January 21for assistance with the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. A memorandum was submitted to the Secretary of State which read:

Kashmiri Pandits hail from Kashmir, the northernmost area of India and have been struggling for past two decades as refugees in their own country. "In fact, today marks the day two decades ago, when 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus, called Kashmiri Pandits, were driven away after thousands were murdered and raped.

We call it the Exodus Day for Kashmiri Pandits, which is recognized throughout the world to remember those unfortunate people as well as bring awareness to this issue. Right at the moment, thousands of these uprooted people are living in other parts of India as refugees. In direct violation of the Constitution of India and the United Nations Charter, the Kashmiri politicians have denied the basic human rights to Hindus.

They have also purposely created an atmosphere of uncertainty and insecurity so that like Hindus, Sikhs and secular Muslims of Kashmir region, the Hindus of Jammu and adjoining cities feel extremely unsafe and helpless and are forced to leave their homes and hearths en mass.

From left to right Deepak Ganju, Ishani Chaudhary, Maharaj Kaul, Michael Owens, Jeevan Zutshi

The Government of India has not made an effort to rehabilitate the Pandit refugees in their own country. It has been only talking about their return without any consideration for their safety. The only thing the Government must do is to carve out a safe haven for this minority community in Kashmir. This safe haven, also called 'Panun Kashmir' meaning 'My Kashmir' will allow the Kashmiri Hindus promote their culture in safety.

The first requirement is survival, culture comes later. Kashmiri Pandits want to return to Kashmir because, first, they have lived there for thousands of years; second, because their jobs are there; third, because the backdrop of their ethos is there.

This community is scattered all around India and is very quickly losing its culture and heritage. By carving out this land in the Indian State of Kashmir, the Government of India would be allowing this intellectual and very educated community to live without fear of persecution.

The Government of India needs to address the question of the social, political and economic aspirations of the community, which must be considered as an indispensable component of any future settlement on Kashmir.

From left to right Deepak Ganju, Maharaj Kaul, Michael Owens, Jeevan Zutshi

"Twenty years have passed and our people are still disenfranchised politically, socially and economically. More than 45,000 people are still in camps. The State Government of Jammu and Kashmir has been busy making false promises while Government of India has been consistent with a policy of appeasement", said Jeevan Zutshi, the Chairman of International Kashmir Federation, an international body of Kashmiri Pandits fighting for the survival of their community. IKF delegates came from New York, California, Washington, D.C and Florida.

They met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Owen on the morning of Thursday January 21st for more than an hour. Maharaj Kaul, IKF delegate from New York started the meeting with the history of ancient Kashmir up to 1947 and Pakistan's insurgency and indoctrination of the muslim majority community in Kashmir, which otherwise was an example of religious harmony and co-existence.

Deepak Ganju, IKF delegate from Florida and the past President of Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA) talked about the deplorable state of the Kashmiri pandit refugees in camps in Jammu. Mr. Owens was familiar with the Kashmir Problem but was appalled at the level of adversity faced by Kashmiri Pandits.

From left to right Deepak Ganju, Mike Honda, Maharaj Kaul, Jeevan Zutshi

Jeevan Zutshi talked about various resolutions and declared that the only solution to the present crisis was to carve out a separate land for Kashmiri Pandits and other nationalistic and peace loving Indians within Kashmir.

"Kashmir is the home to 750,000 Pandits and making an enclave for them within Kashmir will provide a legal territory and they have can feel a high level of security so they feel they belong in their ancient land where they have been for thousands of years. This land will be administered by the Central Government of India."

IKF then had a candid discussion with Congressman Mike Honda who admitted only knowing of the Kashmir Problem through an international Symposium convened by Mr. Zutshi in 2003 and attended by Jim McDermott, Terrista Schaffer, Congressman Pete Stark and various think tanks.

Mr. Honda was very receptive to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits in India and promised his support.

IKF then briefed Republican Congressman Ed Royce, Congressman Frank Pallone, Congressman Jerry McNerney and Senator Sherrod Brown of the Kashmir Problem and the Panun Kashmir movement.

"It was a very successful set of meetings in which the plight of Kashmiri Pandits was front and center. It was also an achievement that they were further educated on the Kashmir Problem and Panun Kashmir solution", said Jeevan Zutshi.

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