In a strong defense of India’s move to abrogate special status for Jammu and Kashmir, a representative of the Kashmiri Pandit community told a US Congressional hearing that those talking of human rights violations in Kashmir today cannot ignore the rights of the Kashmiri Hindus who were forced to flee by Islamic terrorists and radicals in 1990.
Testifying before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Thursday, writer and political commentator Sunanda Vashisht said while the world is expressing horror at the brutality of the Islamic State (ISIS) outfit’s actions in Syria and elsewhere, the Kashmiri Hindu community had witnessed it 30 years ago.
“We have seen ISIS-level of horror and brutality in Kashmir 30 years before the West was even introduced to the brutality of radical Islamic terror,” Vashisht said.
“I am glad the hearings are happening, because when my family lost our homes, our livelihood and our way of life, the world remained silent.
“Where were the advocates of human rights when my rights were taken away?” she asked.
“Where were they on the night of January 9, 1990, when mosques in Kashmir were blaring that they wanted Kashmir with Hindu women but without Hindu men. Where were the advocates of humanity when my feeble old grandfather stood with two kitchen knives and a rusted axe ready to kill my mother and I in order to save us from the much worse fate if we landed in the hands of Islamic terrorists that night?
“We were given three choices – flee, convert, or die. Around 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus fled after that night of horror, they survived, those who didn’t were killed,” she said.
She said she was speaking as a member of the minority Hindu community from Kashmir, that has been a “victim of the worst ethnic cleansing witnessed in independent India”.
She recounted two incidents of brutal killing of Kashmiri Hindus by Islamic terrorists in 1990, because of their faith.
Vashisht said that Sikhs have been massacred (referring to the Chittisinghpura massacre of 35 Sikh villagers on March 20, 2000 in Anantnag district), and a ‘fatwa’ was issued against Christian schools in Kashmir accusing them of luring Muslims to Christianity.
“What human rights are we talking about when all minorities have been either driven out or silenced? An Islamist state of Kashmir where other religions are not welcome and tolerance of any other view is absent, is no citadel of human rights.
“This is the society being created in Kashmir by those who are talking of human rights… Terrorism is the ultimate opponent of human rights, and human rights cannot, and should not take precedence over human life,” she stressed.
She recounted the recent killing of shopkeepers, truck drivers and apple growers in Kashmir by terrorists as they wanted to earn their livelihood.
“Because the simple act of earning a livelihood in Kashmir would show that Kashmir is moving towards normalcy,” which the terrorists do not want to allow.
“Who are these people who talk of human rights but fear free movement, fear free thought and earning of livelihoods?” she asked.
She said the August 5 abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir is a “restoration of human rights”.
She said the Indian Constitution that is modelled on the US Constitution is the most liberal document in the world. The Indian Constitution was not applicable in J&K in totality as long as Article 370 was in force, she said.
With abrogation of Article 370 now the people of J&K and Ladakh “have been liberated”.
“Now child marriage is outlawed, sex trafficking is outlawed, Kashmiri women and children are given the same rights as the rest of Indians. LGBTQ people are now eligible to rights. I am delighted that Kashmiris have the same rights as the rest,” she added.
She said while the clampdown has been revoked the restoration of internet in Kashmir is not very far away. “I hope my human rights too are restored some day.”