indica News Bureau-
Following the roasting India got for its recent actions in Jammu & Kashmir during a congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia last week, the Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA) has complained that the event was “one-sided”.
The Narendra Modi administration came in for severe flak for denying basic freedoms to the people of Jammu & Kashmir for close to three months, at the Oct 22 hearing of the subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In a three-page ‘open letter’ to subcommittee chair Rep Brad Sherman (D-CA), the KOA, an organization of Kashmiri Pandits, claimed that “our story got lost” at the hearing.
KOA president and chairperson Dr Shakun Munshi Malik and secretary Amrita Kar said, “Though you had invited panelists with varying perspectives, the hearing was conducted to favor a one-sided narrative which was clearly illustrated with only three of the six panelists dominating the hearing.”
The KOA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit socio-cultural organization, said the hearing failed to bring forth the true situation in the region by leaving out the Pandits whose human rights, it said, have been violated continuously for 30 years and who are on the “verge of extinction”.
It said Pandits were “ethnically cleansed” from Kashmir by “Islamic terrorists and the community mobilized to focus on the displaced people who were languishing in tents, left to fend for themselves. This led to a number of initiatives by KOA. “These programs remain active 30 years later as our less educated and below mean people still live in refugee camps,” it said.
Without the testimony of Pandits, the KOA said, the subcommittee hearing “promoted anti-Hindu sentiment, peddle(d) by an anti-Indian propaganda machine to appease the Muslim population in the United States and/or the globe”.
Coming to the defense of Aarti Tikoo Singh, a journalist with The Times of India newspaper whose testimony was ripped apart as “state narrative” by Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN), the KOA said Tikoo Singh was a victim of the “brutal forced exodus of Kashmiri Hindus of 1990” and was in the valley a fortnight ago as a journalist. “She is an eyewitness of the ground situation,” it said. “Who better to talk about the situation? (But) she was getting cut off multiple times.”
Dr Malik and Kar wrote, “We were hopeful when you asked what happened to the 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits who left the valley 30 years ago, but to our quick dismay, you never gave her the opportunity to expand her response. It was clear you did not intend to hear reality.”
They said the Pandits did not “leave” the valley but were “forced to leave…. It started with targeted killings of Hindus, gang rapes of women, followed by gruesome mass murders. Mosques and crowds chanted slogans to Kashmiri Pandits to convert to Islam or die or leave. Pamphlets with similar messages were plastered on our doors and alleyways. We were left to bear the horrors of terrorism on our own with many homes, businesses, and temples burned to the ground. We became refugees in our own country, some forced to live in squalid tent camps.”
Those who were educated and had the means scattered around India and the world, the KOA said, but the “less fortunate and less educated” continue to languish in “subhuman” refugee camps.
The association said the press and debates in the US following the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India, revoking Jammu & Kashmir’s special status Aug 5, have been in denial, misinformed or silent about the exodus. It said it had contacted Francisco Bencosme of Amnesty International, who also testified in Washington, DC, to invite him to visit the refugee camps in Jammu.