Kashmir groups brief Congressmen on conflict, draw attention to plight of Pandits

indica News Bureau-

 

A congressional briefing on ‘Kashmir: The Way Forward’ was organized on Capitol Hill Wednesday by the Indo-American Community Federation (IACF) in collaboration with the Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA) and USINPAC.

The stated objective of the briefing was to promote pluralism and reconnect and reintegrate the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir following the annulling of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India by the Narendra Modi administration Aug 5.

The event was sponsored by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and attended by Representatives Ro Khanna, Mike Thompson, Zoe Lofgren, Mark Desaulneir and Dorthy Matsui. Elliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, was also there, as were a number of congressional staff, Indian-Americans and Kashmiri Pandits.

In her opening statement, Congresswoman Eshoo emphasized that India and the US, the world’s largest democracies, need to work together to strength democracy.

Dr Shakun Malik, KOA president, talked about the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits and the discrimination faced by Kashmiri women, minorities and weaker sections of society due to Articles 370 and 35A. Heartrending personal stories of some victims of Kashmiri terrorism in 1990-91 were shared by Swapna Raina, Dr Archana Kokroo and Sachin Koul.

Jeff M Smith, research fellow from the Heritage Foundation, who has visited Kashmir in the past, was touched by the stories and wondered why these were not covered by the Western press.

Talking about how the US views Kashmir, Smith reiterated the official position that recent policy changes in Kashmir are India’s internal matter.

Bharath Gopalaswamy spoke of the geopolitics of Kashmir and sympathized with the displaced Kashmiri Hindus.

Dr C Shaykher, cardiologist from Florida, spoke of ‘misconceptions’ about Hindutva and touched upon a historical perspective, emphasizing that Kashmiri Hindus have a documented civilizational legacy going back 5,000 years.

Dr Surinder Kaul, international coordinator of the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora, said “the most dangerous framing of the issue in US media reporting is fanning religious polarization with the use of the Hindu-Muslim binary. The only binary that exists in Kashmir is that between Peace and Violence, the later introduced by the gun culture of the terrorists.”

Jeevan Zutshi, who hosted the briefing, emphasized that the way forward is to ensure that people of all religions live peacefully in Kashmir with justice, security and economic opportunities for all and hoped that Congress would adopt a resolution condemning the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits.

A brief video presentation about current life in Kashmir depicting a gradual return to normalcy in the region, including business in hospitals and schools, was part of the event.