Delegations representing US-based Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and Dawoodi Bohras met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston on Sept 21 and thanked him for his initiative to abrogate Article 370 and remove the names of Sikhs blacklisted against entry into India and urged him to look into a few more demands.
The Kashmiri Pandit team said it was impressed with Modi’s work and he promised to take care of its demands. He also said whatever needs to be done to resettle Kashmiri Pandits would be done.
“It was a very positive meeting. He understood what we had gone through,” Shakun Malik, president of the Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA), told indica. “We were happy he understood our plight and what we have been through when he said you all have suffered a lot.
“He promised to take care of whatever needs to be done. We told him we trust him and are with him.”
Asked what they wanted him to do further, Malik said, “We want our community back in India to be part of the dialogue. In general, we would like to have the settlement of migrants who are still in [refugee] camps. We would like their health issues to be taken care of.”
The KOA president called the meeting with the Prime Minister “extraordinarily productive” and “emotional”.
An official memorandum on behalf of 700,000 Kashmiri Pandits in exodus was presented to Prime Minister Modi. The memorandum has listed some demands, including on resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandits.
“Modi said he would make sure all Kashmiris are happy and prosperous in the new Kashmir,” San Francisco Bay Area-based Jeevan Zutshi, a founding member of the Indo-American Kashmir Forum and US coordinator of GKPD (Global Kashmir Pandit Diaspora), told indica.
Jasdip Singh Chandhok, chairman, Sikhs of America Inc, said his delegation thanked Modi for resolving several issues. “Five years ago, we met him in New York and gave him a memorandum,” Chandhok told indica. “He himself knows all the issues we have asked him to resolve — convicting and putting behind bars both Kamal Nath and Jagdish Tytler for the 1984 Sikh genocide.”
Chandhok was pleased that former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar had been sentenced to imprisonment in the 1984 case. “We are very happy about that,” he said. “We are very happy that justice was served after 35 years.”
He also said over 300 members of the Sikh community who had been blacklisted could now visit India as their names had been removed from an entry blacklist for alleged involvement in anti-India activities.
Other issues the Sikh delegation raised were to amend Article 25 of the Indian Constitution (on basic human rights) and to clarify that Sikhism is an independent religion.
“Sikhs should get their religious identity in India,” Chandhok told indica. “Sikhism has grown as an independent religion throughout the world and is the world’s fifth-largest religion.
He said they also raised a demand to rename Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport after Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism.
Another issue the Sikh delegation brought up was that while Indian visas are being granted in most cases, new passport are still not being issued to asylees except in cases where extreme humanitarian considerations apply.
Chandhok also said Modi gave them a sympathetic hearing.
Members of the Dawoodi Bohra community felicitated the Prime Minister by draping a traditional ‘angvastram’ across his shoulders and thanked him for attending a program of their community in Indore last year. They also highlighted Modi’s association with the Syedna, spiritual and temporal head of the community.