25th August 1997
Mr. Jose Bengoa
49th Session, UN Human Rights Sub-Commission
1. I am the, President of the Indo-European Kashmir Forum and Geneva based representative of affiliate organizations in Washington, DC ( Indo-American Kashmir Forum) and Ottawa (Indo-Canadian Kashmir Forum).Our organizations are dedicated to protecting the human rights of Kashmiri Pandits, a minority community in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.As such, our regional NGO (not having the ECOSOC status) represents the nearly entire population of 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits currently living as refugees in their own country.2. As a result of fundamentalist - terrorist insurgency aided and abetted by nations that provide training and material support to Kashmiri militants, nearly 1500 intellectuals and professionals within our community were selectively gunned down, and the entire population was forced into an exile.
3. For the last seven years, the forcibly exiled community has been living in more than 50 make shift refugee camps in Jammu region of the state or in other parts of India.
4. Ethno-religious cleansing of the Pandits has been carried out by militant sections of the majority community (Muslims) in a ruthless manner.During the past seven years of turmoil in Kashmir, nearly 10,000 houses of the Pandits have been looted by the locals and burnt down.More than a thousand properties of the Pandits have been forcibly occupied.
5. Though we do not have consultative status with ECOSOC, we have time and again brought to the notice of the Commission and Sub-Commission, the case of violation of our human rights, through ethno-religious cleansing, discrimination on the basis of faith, denial of right to life, to education, to culture etc.
6. We have been attending the meetings of the Working Group on Minorities where we have presented our case.
7. In his interventions on agenda item 2 and 8, the Chairman - Rapporteur, Mr. Eide has stated that extremist militant groups in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir have been responsible for violating the human rights of general populace.
Your Excellency, an effort is being made by these extremist militants groups, who are sending their representatives to the Commission and the Sub - Commission to ask for their human rights, to characterize Pandit community's forced exodus from Kashmir as a contrivance by the Indian government.Nothing could be farther from the truth.In fact it is a cruel statement, considering the miserable life Pandits are facing today in wretched refugee camps.
The enclosed copy of a statement made before the Sub - Commission by a representative of the ultra-militant organization in question on item 8 is an example,
The fact of the matter, Mr. Chairman is as this:-
a) The minuscule religious minority of the Pandits in Kashmir has been facing worst kind of persecution and discrimination at the hands of local majority
b) During past 50 years of independence, discrimination against us on the basis of faith has been institutionalized by subverting constitutional and legal safeguards. This has been done behind the cloak of autonomy (Article 370) granted by the central government to the state.
c) Instead of raising the false cry of Panditsas compatriots and urging them to return to the inferno that they have created, these so called human rights groups should have given a call to their fellow terrorists to give up guns and violence and restore normalcy in Kashmir.
Your Excellency, since we are not able to bring all this to the notice of the Sub -Commission through intervention, we take the opportunity to submitting this document to you personally for consideration.We thank you for giving us this opportunity.
All members of the Sub - Commission
Indo - American Kashmir Forum, Washington DC, USA (Dr. Vijay Sazawal) Indo - Canadian Kashmir Forum, Ottawa, Canada (Dr. Ashok Koul) lndo - European Kashmir Forum, London, UK (Dr. Pomposh Ganju)
Preambular para 6 Of the Declaration on the rights of Persons belonging to national or Ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities emphasizes that the constant promotion and realization of the rights Of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities as an integral part of the development of society as a whole and within a democratic framework based on the rule of the law, would contribute to the strengthening of friendship and cooperation among peoples and states.
These sentiments capture the essence of the declaration.It is simply not possible for a nation to progress without making sure that all the groups constituting the whole are in consonance and harmony,
Kashmir through ages has been a very tolerant place.There are three Major religious groups in Kashmir - Muslims, constituting the majority, the Hindus called Pandits and the Buddhists, The Muslims make up more than 80% of the Population of Kashmir, Peoples of different faiths and beliefs have coexisted In it peacefully and harmoniously for centuries.In fact Kashmir was one of the prototypes of a multi-religious society totally at peace with Itself and with the world at large, The history of Kashmir testifies that it is a history Of coexistence, of tolerance and amity between all these different religious communities,
No one can dispute the fact - a fact of no small significance - that while the sub. continent under British rule was, the scene of recurrent murderous and religious strife, communal riots were unheard of In Kashmir?That unquestionable fact brings out the real character of Kashmir's heritage.
The current bloody crisis in Kashmir is not the result of tensions between the religious communities; it is not about the majority against the minority. Unfortunately, some have sought to transform the situation into a conflict between the Muslim majority and the Hindu minority. The fact remains that the current crisis in Kashmir is against an alien occupation and is not communal. The compulsions of Kashmir's history and the demands of its future alike forbid religious conflict or sectarian strife.
In 1989 when Kashmiris started the current phase of their struggle for self determination, the Indian government devised a plan to use the Pandit community to portray the struggle as between Muslims and Hindus. The then Indian Governor, Jagmohan played on its fears to make Pandits leave Kashmir Valley and move to Jammu and beyond. They were uprooted and made to leave in large numbers.Now, they are living rootless lives in an unfeeling environment, Jagmohan wanted them out of Kashmir in order to misrepresent the resistance as an anti-Hindu campaign and also to clear the field for acts of mass slaughter, arson and rape.
Here I would like to quote George Fernandes, former Federal Minister of India.He states "I don't think you will find any Kashmiri Muslim who endorses the idea of militants choosing Kashmiri Pandits as their targets for religious reasons
At present the Pandits are spread across refugee camps in Indian territory bordering Kashmir.The camps are reported to be badly run with very poor sanitation and few other facilities.Visiting foreign dignitaries are regularly taken there and the suffering Pandits are paraded before them as examples of the depredations of so called fundamentalists in Kashmir,
In March 1994 the then US Assistant Secretary of Slate for South Asia, Ms. Robin Raphael, speaking about the plight of the Pandit community from Kashmir, said "Certainly at one point they were urged by the Government in Kashmir to go".
Ms. Raphel in her testimony to Congress in 1994 stated that the houses left by the pandits were still empty, The situation remains unchanged.The vacant houses of the Pandits are awaiting their return and we urge them to do so. It is time for them to stop becoming pawns in the hands of a hegemonies government that has been using them shamelessly and to sympathize with the plight of the majority.We, the Kashmiri Muslims are acutely conscious of their sufferings. Our concern embraces Pandit Community and its current predicament.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask this question to the distinguished experts of this Sub-Commission: Does Kashmiri Hindu Community deserve to be treated with a lack of respect?Does a single Kashmiri Hindu deserve to be reduced to begging?They have a proud history - a history that does not deserve to be brought to a cruel end.
We would like to place on record our open invitation to the Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes.They must be rehabilitated in safety and with honour in Kashmir,
Mr. Chairman, when all is said and done, one simple fact stands out, The Kashmiri Muslims as such do have sentiments of regards, of respect and esteem for Kashmiri Pandits,
Thank you, Mr. Chairman,