Indian-Americans commemorate 30th anniversary of Kashmiri Pandit exodus; paid homage to martyrs and victims

indica News Bureau-

Remembering the people who lost their lives in the Kashmiri Pandit Exodus of 1990, a conference titled ‘Kashmiri Hindu Pandit Genocide and 30 Years of Exile – The Untold Facts of Kashmiri Pandits’ was held at the India Community Center, Milpitas, CA, on January 19. Jeevan Zutshi, the founding member of IACF, California chapter of KOA, IAKF and GOPIO –Silicon Valley, gave a heart-rending speech about the event that changed the course of history and urged the members to find out a way forward. Zutshi also extended support to the Government of India in revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and criticized the bill passed by Indian-American Senator Pramila Jayapal. 

Appreciating the move by the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, “As we all know, in August 2019, the Indian government revoked the special status of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in order to fully integrate the state within India and put the state’s citizens on an equal footing with the citizens of the country.”  He added that though the world media was criticizing the step, it was only focusing on the Muslims of Kashmir, forgetting that Hindus of the state had also suffered tremendously under the Islamic hegemony since the introduction of Islam in the 12th century by Muslim invaders.

” The revocation of the special status of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir to fully integrate the state within India is a first step in righting the wrongs of history. Hopefully, one day the indigenous people of Kashmir, the Hindu Pundits, will be able to return to their home and Kashmir will once again become the beacon of plurality and fountainhead of Hindu philosophy, art and culture that it was before the 12th century. That is the New Kashmir and a way forward I envision”, he added. 

Zutshi, then criticized the bill introduced by Congresswoman Jayapal, saying that it was ‘demonized’ India. 

“India is being demonized and the recent resolution by  Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA] -was Introduced on 12/06/2019. What is more appalling is that there are seven Democrats who are Co-Sponsors of this bill and they are in our backyard. Some of them are very powerful with highest job approval rating in their district”. 

He added , ” Subsequently, there were two hearings by Brad Sherman and Tom Lantos. The US House Foreign Affair’s Committee Hearing on South Asia Human Rights unfolded along expect lines. As has become the norm in the United States of America, such hearings are not conducted with the intention of uncovering the truth of matters but are seen as an opportunity for moral grandstanding with an eye on gaining political mileage from them.”

Citing the examples of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo Pallone, Sherrod Brown, Ed Royce, and many others in the U.S. Congress or Senate, Zutshi said, ” What we need to do is meet these members of Congress in our backyard and educate them about the real situation in India. We need to work with moderate elements who are also tired of this proxy war. They have lost family members and have also suffered considerably. We need a clear and comprehensive strategic plan of action to assist the forces against terrorism.”

He further said that the day the Indian Army takes back POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), is not far. 

The Kashmiri Pandit Exodus through the eyes of the sufferers

Describing the event that changed the lives of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, he said, ” There is a myth that 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits left Kashmir of their own in 1990. First and foremost, they did not leave the valley, as has been incorrectly elucidated; they were forced to leave by Islamic terrorists, some within and mostly from Pakistan. It started with targeted killings of Hindus, gang rapes of women, followed by gruesome mass murders.”

He recalled that the Hindus were threatened and asked either to convert to Islam or die. “Mosques and crowds chanted slogans to Kashmiri Pandits to either convert to Islam or die or leave. Pamphlets with similar messages were plastered on their doors. They were left to bear the horrors of terrorism on their own with many homes, businesses, and temples burned to the ground. They became refugees in their own country, most of them forced to live in squalid tent camps in Jammu and elsewhere.”

He further said that many people believed that the then Governor Governor Jagmohan asked Kashmiri Pandits to leave Kashmir so all Muslims in Kashmir would be massacred without harming Pandits but as the Hindus were dispersed around the valley and they did not have a centralized leadership like the Muslims, they could not unite as they were all running for their lives. ” Kashmiri Pandits don’t have any centralized leader like Muslims do. Hindus don’t have an  imam or Mufti nor do they attend Khutbas or abide by Firmans”, he said. 

Raising a concern about the statistics of Hindu-killings, he said, ” According to the report submitted by the State of Jammu & Kashmir to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), 719 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in 1989-90 by the Islamic Terrorists in Kashmir. However, among the dead in Kashmir, the State Government is yet to disclose the identity of about four hundred dead bodies, recovered by the police and disposed of at its will. 

Two hundred Kashmiris and other Indian supporters joined hands to hear firsthand account of genocide inflicted on Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir, hear what Kashmir has contributed to the Indian ethos and what is at stake in Kashmir. They also paid homage to martyrs and all victims in Kashmir, including the soldiers, who lost their lives starting in 1990. 

Upkaar Kotru, Director of KOA Zone 9 opened the forum, talked about his personal experiences when as a 10 year old he had to flee along with his family in January 1990. He recited poetry written about his exodus touching many hearts.

A short documentary on the exodus produced by Ashish Dhar was screened to a thunderous applause. Many people in the audience had no idea about what exactly had happened in Kashmir on January 19, 1990. They didn’t know about gravity of the situation.

Vinod Moza, the former Vice-President of KOA, was the emcee. A perfect soft spoken Engineering Director spoke in pure Hindi.

Vijay Dhar, another past Vice-President of KOA gave a presentation on “Place of Kashmir in Indian ethos – What’s at stake.” It was very well received considering the depth of research he had conducted.

Community leaders like Dr. Ramesh Konda (IACF President), Raj Bhanot (AIA), Krishna Pandey (Shiv Durga temple), Yogi Chugh, VijayaAasuri (AIA), Dr. Pooja Baijal (HAF) spoke about the exodus and human rights issues.