US calls for specific details on displaced Kashmiri Pandits
19 June 2000
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: In a significant turn of events, the United States has recognised the importance of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits by calling for ''specific'' details on their problems, grievances, expectations and living conditions. Washington has, in a message to New Delhi, sought information about the total number of Kashmiri Hindus having been forced to flee their homeland in the past one decade or so and about the number of camps set up for them. The message has also called for information on the number of Muslims hitherto forced to move out of the Valley because of the terrorist violence, vandalism and threat and killings. Emphasis, however, is on the nature and size of security arrangements made by the authorities for the protection of minorities, including Kashmiri Pandits. The message has hinted that a team of human rights activists from the US may shortly undertake a trip to Jammu and Kashmir. A proposal, in this regard, is said to have been floated after the US-based Indo-American Kashmir Forum, a body campaigning for the preservation and protection of the rights of Kashmiri Pandits, virtually flooded the US State Department with documents, highlighting the ethnic cleansing of Pandits from Kashmir and their woes. One of these documents sought to inform the US President, Mr Bill Clinton, and his administration that the horror story of 1989 was the ethnic cleansing of Pandits from Kashmir. ''It was'', the document said, ''perpetuated by jehad warriors, trained, armed and inspired by Pakistan and newer fervour of religious fundamentalism unknown to the region till then''. Washington''s query with regard to the number of Kashmiri Hindus killed by insurgents and terrorists seems to have been the outcome of the repeated assertion by the Indo-American Kashmir Forum that more than 1,000 Pandit intellectuals, professionals and senior Government officials-in other words, the elite of the community, as described in the document-became targets of selective assassination. And the document, copies of which have also been sent to the higher-ups in US State Department, has claimed: ''This was followed by a general mayhem, including random killings, rapes, arson and harrassment, that led to a virtually complete exodus of the Pandit minority from Kashmir''. Another document, which has been submitted to Mr Clinton, contains the finding: Increasing death rate, coupled with mental illness, increasing respiratory and heart diseases and decreasing years of reproductive age in women, have all taken its toll and will continue to take its toll. The document has predicted: ''For the rest, those of the minority community who could not leave Kashmir in spite of terrorism and brutalities for various personal reasons, there are new dangers that renew suspicion that a new wave of genocide of Kashmiri Pandits is underway''. Meanwhile, anticipating intensified hit-and-run tactics by extremists in parts of India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, in coming days and weeks, the Union Home Ministry has revised strategy to effectively combat the activities of the Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). At the same time, the Prime Minister''s Office (PMO) is reported to have favoured a preventive mechanism in close consultations with Chiefs of police departments in various States and higher-ups of different intelligence and security agencies. A top functionary in the PMO is learnt to have made a pointed reference to reports about a set of Kashmiri militants possessing ''cigarette detonators'' and ''cyanide bullets. It is in this context that the PMO has highlighted the need for evolving a preventive mechanism as quickly as possible.