Kashmiri Pandits conference at House of Commons

Kashmiri Pandits conference at House of Commons

Kashmiri Pandits conference at House of CommonsPress Release

“Pandits’ Exodus, an Unprecedented Human Tragedy” – Marcus Jones

“Our response was inadequate to Pandits’ Tragic Exodus” – Marcus Jones

On 11th September 2013, Indo European Kashmir Forum (IEKF) organised a largely attended seminar in The House of Commons, London on the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits and the way forward. The meeting was chaired by Mr Marcus Jones, Member of Parliament, UK.

The keynote speakers at the seminar were: Marcus Jones, MP , Andrew Griffiths, MP, Krishna Bhan ,President IEKF, Vijay Sazawal ,International Co-ordinator of IAKF,ICKF and IEKF, Moti Kaul, President AIKS, Apex Body of Indian & Overseas KP Organizations, Bharti Tailor, President of the Hindu Forum of Europe, Vivek Kaul, Member IEKF, Shantanu Bhagwat, Former Diplomat of India, Gopalakrishna RAO, Representative of Kanchi Kamoti in Chennai, Surendra Sharma, Former President of Overseas Friends of BJP UK and Chandan Kotwal, Executive Member IEKF.

Marcus Jones welcomed the speakers and the audience and said he appreciated the IEKF’s initiative of organizing this seminar highlighting the issues and concerns of displaced Kashmiri Pandits. In his opening remarks, Marcus regretted for the inadequate response by the UK Parliament to the Kashmiri Pandits’ unprecedented human tragedy. He presented a forceful and passionate assertion that for an ethnic minority, to remain in exile for over two decades, is shameful. It is the solemn responsibility of the Indian Government and the International community to effectively and decisively respond to the short and long term concerns of Kashmiri Pandits. “I am indeed pained with your plight and the struggle that you have endured for the last two decades. Your dignified and structured return shall be the litmus test both for the local administration and all stakeholders”, he said.

Krishna Bhan expressed her profound gratitude to Marcus Jones for supporting the initiatives of the displaced community and taking out his valuable time to be part of this humble attempt to showcase a historical persecution and the continued apathy towards the aborigines. She highlighted that Kashmiri Pandits’ heritage, in the form of temples and shrines stand in ruins today. She further stated that the ethnic race stands on the verge of extinction and for that reason our honourable return to our place of birth is paramount. The manner, in which the state apparatus has treated Pandits, is deplorable, she said. She complimented the effective role played by AIKS in responding to the challenges and the long term survival of the community.

Vijay Sazawal stated that exercising wishes of the majority by elections is necessary but not sufficient to claim democracy. Democracy also requires a binding commitment to pluralism, religious tolerance, protection of human rights of religious and ethnic minorities as well as women and children, and the rule of law. Democracy as exercised in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has been reduced to Tyranny of the Majority

Dr. Sazawal stressed that the solution of the vexed Kashmir issue lies in shrinking, and not expanding, the choices for possible solution. Diversity of choices has neither brought political convergence or regional stability, nor reduced the misery and plight of the disfranchised in the State, including minorities. The single group who have benefitted from the status quo are the empowered elites and their dependents.

He concluded by saying that the time has come for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to close the Kashmir file by announcing its intention to declare the ceasefire line as the international boundary, and ask India and Pakistan to settle adjustments along the line of control through a dialogue.

Moti Kaul, President AIKS, speaking on the occasion, in his keynote address, lambasted both centre & state governments, for their utter failure in responding to our issues & concerns. While the exodus of Pandits in 1990 was an unprecedented human tragedy, last 23 years in exile, have been traumatic, he said. The politico bureaucratic nexus in our state of J&K has played havoc with our lives, ever since independence.

Mr Kaul explained in great detail the Islamist Fundamentalist in collaboration with vested political class of the state that were responsible in butchering more than 800 Pandits & their eventual forceful exodus. He also gave an expos̩ of the deplorable conditions of our only living symbols in the valley Рthe temples & shrines.

The recent communal violence at Kishtiwar & Shopian have once again brought to focus the nefarious designs of the fundamentalists and the state administration to alter the demography of the state by forcing out the minorities from different locations. As a way forward, Kaul presented the resolutions passed in AIKS organized global meet on 4th March 2012. The main features of this resolution being – Satellite Township, Political Empowerment, Minority Status & passing of the Temples’ bill.

Bharti Tailor gave a detailed account of the work that the European Council of Religious Leaders undertakes including Youth networks and Women of Faith networks. Bharti offered to raise the profile of Kashmiri Hindu’s tragic exodus, through the Hindu Forum of Europe.

Andrew Griffiths stated that Kashmir is not an issue about a line on the map; it is about people’s lives, being driven away from home. He further said that when Allied troops move out of Afghanistan, the local insurgents will be looking for wars and it may spread into Kashmir. So it is important to have some resolution before Allied troops move out.

Shantanu Bhagwat, a former diplomat, gave a comprehensive presentation, on repealing of Article 370. Article 370 was temporary and in any case totally irrelevant today. State administration with vested interests; have to demolish the walls of hatred created by Article 370.

Other speakers also gave their forceful presentations denouncing religious fundamentalism in the J&K state that was instrumental in the ethnic cleansing of a peaceful community – Kashmiri Hindus. They emphasised on giving Pandits their legitimate rights – economic, political and religious.

While concluding the proceedings, Marcus Jones thanked the participants and assured his full support and cooperation to bring justice to the Kashmiri Hindus. He also promised to take up the issues and concerns of Pandits within the UK Parliament and other International bodies.

Chandan Kotwal presented vote of thanks.

Krishna Bhan
Hindu Council UK