Congressmen Ask Vajpayee To Protect Kashmiri Pandits
2 June 2003
News Network International
Washington DC: Two US Congressmen have written to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee urging him to ensure the safety of Kashmiri Pandits and see that they are not sidelined in possible peace talks with Pakistan. In the letter sent to Vajpayee, lawmakers Frank Pallone and Sherrod Brown pinpointed Vajpayee's inability to mention a attack against Kashmiri Pandits in Nandimarg in March during his visit to Kashmir in April. At least 24 people died in the brutal attack by terrorists dressed in army uniform. 'We are deeply concerned about this apparent lack of a sustained effort to create a political and economic safety net for Kashmiri Pandits and therefore, we respectfully urge you to address this issue immediately,' IANS quoted the letter as saying. 'On April 18 in Srinagar, you expressed your sentiments towards Kashmiri Muslims who feel disenfranchised within the Indian polity. We request that you make a public address informing the Pandit community about how it can be included in Kashmir polity and in the peace process between India and Pakistan.' The two lawmakers said: 'We fail to understand how the state and central governments can continue to ignore the long-standing situation in Jammu and Kashmir.' 'Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a coherent and sustained process to restore the valley to its diverse history,' said Pallone and Brown, founding members of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. 'As strong supporters of India, we have heard concerns from our Indian American constituents that both local and central governments have failed in their outreach to all constituents of Jammu and Kashmir.' Pallone and Brown said no community in Kashmir has suffered more violence than Kashmiri Pandits, who have been brutalized, which has resulted in their mass exodus from the Kashmir Valley since the 1990s. The two lawmakers pointed to a series of cold- blooded murders against Pandits in Kashmir's Sangrampora (1996), Wandhama (1998), Talwani (2000), and Nandimarg (2003), as the government's failure to protect this community. While voicing concern over the Kashmiri Pandits, Pallone and Brown congratulated Vajpayee on yet another peace initiative with Pakistan, and his efforts to reach out to Kashmiris who chose not to participate in last year's state elections.