US leader for minority status for J&K pandits
22 July 2000
Ashish Kumar Sen
San Francisco: Ohio Democrat Congressman Sherrod Brown has in a letter to the chairman of the National Commission for Minorities in India indicated his support for designating the pandits of Jammu and Kashmir as a minority community. Mr Brown, a senior member of the International Relations Committee and a founding member of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, wrote to Mohammed Shamim saying the designation would help the minority Hindu community in the state preserve its culture and fight discrimination. ''This designation is a decade overdue. The pandits were forced from their homes by terrorists. They have lived in a tent community plagued by disease, malnutrition, and poor sanitation. They have faced religious and cultural persecution. The pandits'' struggle has gone unrecognised in a country with the largest ethnic diversity in the world. This is a question of humanity. It is time to assure the pandits social and economic justice,'' Mr Brown said. He felt the forced exodus of the pandits by terrorists trained outside India''s borders had created a ''terrible situation, both in terms of the human loss due to violence in the Valley and the harsh living conditions which exist in the make-shift camps.'' ''More die in the refugee camps than are born. Deprived of their human, economic, civil, and religious rights, the pandits appear to be a swiftly vanishing community,'' Mr Brown said, adding: ''Unless drastic measures are taken to reverse this trend, the future of this 5,000 year-old culture appears very bleak.''