Hindu American Foundation writes to Tom Lantos panel on Kashmir


Washington, Nov 15 (IANS): The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has urged the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to recognize "the unique security challenges faced by America's ally India in Jammu and Kashmir and forcefully address Pakistan's role as a state sponsor of terror".

The HAF, a non-profit advocacy organization for the Hindu American community, in a written statement to the Lantos Commission on Thursday also urged the US government to "fully support India's internal sovereign decisions".

It joined the Indo-American Kashmir Forum and Kashmir Hindu Foundation and submitted a Written Statement for the Record to the Commission as it held its hearing, "Jammu and Kashmir in Context" on Thursday.

It also said that the US State Department should "continue to engage with the Indian government on a road map towards restoring normalcy and lifting of restrictions as soon as is reasonably possible".

"The US should hold Pakistan accountable for its support of cross-border terrorism and its persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, including Kashmiris, so that peace is restored in Kashmir once and for all.

"Finally, the US government should support the human rights of the ethnically cleansed Kashmiri Hindu population and other Kashmiris who have been victimized by Pakistani sponsored terror groups," it added.

The HAF expressed disappointment with the Commission for holding the hearing with a very short public notice of only 48 hours.

It said a conventional advance notice of two weeks or more would have elicited a far wider response from potential expert witnesses, non-government organisations working in this field, as well as the wider public, thus enriching the Commission's fact-finding spirit.

"Furthermore, it is disappointing to see this hearing being held on the same day that Diwali, the most important festival for over 3 million Indian Americans, is being celebrated on Capitol Hill.

"Such insensitivity is not lost on the Indian American community," it added.

On the August 5 revocation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir, it said: "For decades, these temporary and discriminatory provisions (Article 370 and Article 35A) had a number of unintended consequences. Article 370 restricted the Indian Parliament's legislative power over Jammu and Kashmir to defence, foreign affairs, and communications, forcing residents of Jammu and Kashmir to live under a separate set of laws that prevented them from enjoying the same rights as other Indian citizens.

"Similarly, Article 35A defined who were permanent residents of the state and determined who could buy property in the state and enjoy other special rights and privileges.

"The repeal of these articles ensures that all democratic laws passed in the Indian Parliament are applied to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, ensuring equal protection under the law and all the rights afforded to Indian citizens, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion, or social background, and whom now have access to better educational and economic opportunities."

On the Kashmir situation, it said: "The situation in Jammu and Kashmir today is a direct product of cross-border terrorism from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Pakistan's actions in Kashmir have not just been limited to overt military conflict, but have also included the use of proxies. Starting in 1989, Pakistan's military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency started a full-blown proxy war. This is the same military-intelligence complex that provided safe harbour to Osama Bin Laden and Islamist terrorists that continue to attack US forces in Afghanistan today.

"In 1989-1990, over 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus, known as Pandits, were ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir Valley, their ancestral home. The violent campaign targeting Kashmir's indigenous minorities was organised, systematic, and included massacres, rape, threats, and intimidation. Public announcements were placed in newspapers, intimidating sermons were made in mosques and broadcast on loudspeakers, and posters hung on houses ordering all Kashmiri Hindus to leave the Valley, threatening violence if they did not and calling on Muslims to take up jihad against non-Muslims. This episode resulted in the cleansing of approximately 95% of the indigenous Hindu population.

"While religious minorities in Kashmir were specifically targeted, Kashmiri Muslims have by far bore the brunt of terrorist related violence, which has taken the lives of 15,000 civilians, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal. Pakistan sponsored terror groups active in Kashmir, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammed are designated as Foreign Terrorist Organisations by the US State Department and enjoy links with the broader terror network in South Asia, including the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and IS."

  

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