That Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) are victims of Islamist jihad at the behest of slogans like ‘Die, Convert or Leave’ is widely known. Yet, as a KP, I am often asked: “Why did we not fight back and remain silent, doing nothing?”, accused of being “weak, cowardly and meek”.
In reality, for 31 years, KPs have been fighting relentlessly against the series of injustices inflicted on us via ‘Panun Kashmir’, a political movement that “besides being a struggle for survival as a cultural entity and an ancient race, is a movement for the political survival of over 700,000 Kashmiri Pandits in their birthland.”
The shock of the mass exodus started unravelling itself when Jammu and Delhi started seeing an influx of distressed Hindus from Kashmir. With nowhere to go, they sought refuge with their relatives or the Gita Bhavan in Jammu. A group of young KPs, Dr Agnishekhar, Dr Ajay Chrungoo and Shailender Aima, each in their twenties and thirties, organised a team of volunteers as the Jammu Kashmir Sahayata Samiti to register names of the families in crisis and seek relief measures from the state government. This nucleus of volunteers later became the present day Panun Kashmir and their efforts in the early days led to the government opening a relief department for the KP refugees.
It is noteworthy that from 1990 to 1999, almost 25,000 KPs died, in refugee camps and in changed environmental conditions, which was roughly 10% of the community living in Jammu those days—an indicator that the genocidal process continued post the forced exodus in 1990.
As displaced Pandits from the valley of Kashmir continued to be uprooted and looted, it became clear that this wasn’t a one-off incident but a planned persecution. The young volunteers supported by the Vidyarthi Parishad, Sanatan Dharma Yuvak Sabha led by Ambarnath Vaishnavi, convened the first bipartisan convention at Mahajan Bhavan in June 1990, which was attended by over 600 delegates and sought, among other key resolutions, the Removal of Article 370 from the Indian Constitution and demanded the return of displaced Kashmiri Pandits to a secure and separate homeland with constitutional guarantees (fourth resolution). The formal curation of Panun Kashmir as an organisation emerged in July 1990, from this fourth resolution to correct the political, human rights and strategic discourse in Kashmir.
The following year, Mohan Kishen Teng led the team and drafted the Margdarshan Resolution that was adopted at a convention on 27-28 December, 1991 in the presence of over 1000 delegates representing the entire KP community. Among the early endorsers of this resolution was senior Indian politician and RSS activist Balraj Madhok. Among a series of demands, the Margdarshan Resolution demanded the establishment of a separate homeland for Kashmiri Hindus in the Kashmir Valley and sought to declare Pakistan as a terrorist state. Since passing the resolution, PK volunteers travelled across the length and breadth of India and reached out to their diaspora, seeking their participation in these shared demands.
One must appreciate that these youngsters actively continued to also shoulder the responsibilities of taking care of their families and protecting them, and rebuilding a life in exile as they made active efforts to fight for the rights of fellow Kashmiri Pandits with the state and Central governments in India, and even the United Nations. In fact, the representation at the UNHRC in 1993 pushed Pakistan into withdrawing their anti-India resolution and censuring India on its human rights violations in Kashmir, in response to India’s efforts to control terrorism and insurgency in Kashmir.
Over the years, in an attempt to keep the exile consciousness alive among the displaced community, key dates have been commemorated as markers and reminders of the injustices inflicted on the KPs, such as 19 January as Forced Exodus Day, 14 September as Martyrdom Day and 28 December as Homeland Day.
In official gazette notifications, KPs were noted as ‘Migrants’ which Panun Kashmir objected to and sought the recognition of KPs as refugees in their own country and for their ‘genocide’ to be recognised. This struggle continues till this day as the community finds itself caught between genocide and its denial.
Survival itself was a daily challenge and the temporary tenements provided to the KPs started wearing off within a few months and admissions to the displaced children were denied in government schools. After much struggle and with support from the Jagriti Mission, classes were conducted by displaced ‘migrant’ teachers, often in the corridors of school buildings after regular school hours ended. ‘Camp schools’ were run to keep children from not missing out on their schooling—yet another passionate demand of PK activists.
Fast forward to the present day, two key measures have been welcomed by the community:
1. Banning of JKLF and Jamat-i-Islami, holding them responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits,
2. Neutering of Article 370 and removing any special privileges for the state of Jammu & Kashmir; reorganising the state into the two union territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir.
What remains is a formal recognition of the ‘genocide’ of Kashmiri Pandits and the process of reversing the genocide. PK recently proposed the draft Genocide Crime Punishment and Atrocities Prevention Bill to be introduced and adopted in the Indian Parliament so that a mechanism of justice delivery is institutionalised via law. This is yet to be introduced in the Parliament though I understand that the Bill has wide acceptability across party lines.
An important aspect of KP genocide is the measurement of the extent of loss and destruction. PK activists have travelled across Kashmir and undertaken an extensive photo-documentation of the desecration over three years, which has been later displayed at exhibitions in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi. This was needed urgently in absence of any statistical survey as the state government is not interested in mapping the extent of destruction in the absence of the recognition of genocide.
There had been, over the years, forced capturing and ‘distress sale’ of Pandit land and homes. PK campaigned actively against this, demanding legal action, and this led to the Prevention of Distress Sales Act 1997-98 in J&K. Though with this legal provision the government began recognising encroachments, they are yet to accept the genocidal dimensions of this encroachment.
Moreover, the cost of the genocide is yet to be calculated. If one were to note the thousands of insurance claims settled for the burnt houses, the hundreds of temples desecrated, properties looted and plundered, orchards, farms, land and several items from the houses lost, it would perhaps run into millions of dollars. The items of loot continued to be sold in local flea markets in downtown Kashmir years after the forced exodus!
Finally, terrorism by a Pakistan-sponsored insurgency, radicalisation and the Islamist jihadist brainwashing of youngsters converted the Valley into a ditch of death. Young Muslim boys were forcibly sent across the border to Pakistan for ‘training’ in 1988-89. The initiation of the counter insurgency process, led by Kuka Parray and the role of Panun Kashmir activists, especially Capt S.K. Tikoo, are now widely recognised by Kashmiris. Yet, one notes the many times when the same perpetrators of genocidal crimes against the Pandits, the separatists who openly admitted to these massacres, were invited to the negotiation table, while alienating the persecuted Hindus and other minorities of Kashmir!
The role of Panun Kashmir as a political movement and its many contributions and sacrifices ought to be commended. I strongly urge the Government of India to take on board the PK recommendations if there is any desire for India to retain its civilisational identity in Kashmir, and in hundreds of other mini-Kashmirs in the making, all over India.
The writer is an Indian British Kashmiri Pandit human rights campaigner based in London. The views expressed are personal.
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I WANTED TO BUILD A PLATFORM THAT COULD HELP OVER A MILLION PEOPLE: RANGANATH THOTA
Fueladream.com is the only crowdfunding platform in the world that funds social causes, products and creative ideas, said its founder and CEO Ranganath Thota during an exclusive interview with NewsX.
Ranganath Thota is the Founder & CEO of FuelAdream and is doing social entrepreneurship via this platform. Thota in an exclusive interview with NewsX India A-list said “The objective is to try and build something that could help over a million people and the only way you could do it is through this concept called Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding means the act of several people coming together to fund something that they believe in.”
The switch from a media person to a social entrepreneur was because of a turning point that happened six years ago. Thota said, “I used to be in the corporate world for about 30 years where I worked across consumer products, media, worked in India, China, South-east Asia. About six years back, I realised I was making a lot of money and it was not as gratifying as I thought it should be. I realised that helping others was more satisfying and meaningful. I sold everything and decided to start this crowdfunding platform. I read about it for half an hour, discovered what it is and moved to Bangalore six years back.”
When asked what sets it apart from other competitors, he said, “What we discovered is that when people fund creative and innovative ideas, they are overwhelmed and passionate about it and that’s why they support it. Similarly when they fund something for a social need, then they have compassion. You have compassion at one end and passion at the other. But in many cases, people are the same. So, for example, we could fund the education for a child and also something as an electric bike.”
Speaking about one of his innovations, Thota said, “For example, there is a smart wallet with a chip in it that connects to the phone. If you lose your wallet you can call it with your phone and if you lose your phone you can call it with your wallet. You can use the phone camera and take pictures using the wallet. This project was funded four years ago. But the same person will help people with cataract surgery and education. So the same person can be driven by compassion and passion.”
He added, “The second thing is about giving behaviours. In social media, we talk about the food we eat, the holidays we take and the pictures we like but we never talk about giving. It is never understood. But there is a huge science in consumer behaviour related to giving which is very different. Crowdfunding also has a science and has four key elements that go into it. It includes storytelling, technology, consumer behaviour and most importantly, communication. Unless you know all this, you cannot do crowdfunding. The other thing we do is teach crowdfunding to a large number of people. They could be corporate people, students, etc.”
When asked about how he builds rapport, Thota said, “Nine out of ten people don’t know how to crowdfund even if their intention is good. They need a lot of hand rolling and that is where I and my team support them. The other important thing is raising funds. There are a lot of things that we need to understand about the projects that need fundraising. A lot of people come to us with great projects but what they don’t realise is that if they raise five times the amount that they are planning to, they actually cannot execute it. Unlike other platforms where you can start a campaign in an hour, with us it takes two days.”
Talking about the success rate he said, “typically it is about 70%. But if some projects don’t work well it is simply because the person doing it doesn’t manage it well, it is not like the story is not good.”
ISRAEL MINISTER TO DISCUSS PEGASUS IN FRANCE VISIT
JERUSALEM: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz will meet his French counterpart in Paris this week for talks that will include an “update” on the Pegasus spyware scandal, his office said Tuesday. A Ministry statement said Gantz will leave Wednesday for talks with French Defence Minister Florence Parly on topics including the crisis in Lebanon, nuclear negotiations with Iran and the Pegasus malware made by the Israeli firm NSO, which was allegedly used to target President Emmanuel Macron. Pegasus, which is able to switch on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvest its data, is at the centre of a storm after a list of about 50,000 potential surveillance targets was leaked to human rights groups. Amnesty International and French media nonprofit Forbidden Stories collaborated with a clutch of media companies, including the Washington Post, the Guardian and Le Monde, to analyse and publish the list. Macron had to change his phone and number. Israel’s defence ministry must approve NSO exports given the sensitive nature of the sector. Israel’s defence establishment has set up a committee to review the firm’s business, including the process through which export licenses are granted. Pegasus’s list of alleged targets includes at least 180 journalists, 600 politicians, 85 human rights activists and 65 business leaders. NSO insists its software is only intended for use in fighting terrorism and other crimes and says it exports to 45 countries.
NORTH, SOUTH KOREA AGREE TO RESTORE SEVERED COMMUNICATION LINKS
SEOUL: North and South Korea restored their cross-border communication lines that had been severed for over a year, the South Korean presidential office said on Tuesday.
An official statement said that the two Koreas decided to resume their direct communication hotlines as of 10:00 am local time. This comes 13 months after North Korea cut off all communication lines with South Korea in protest over Seoul’s supposed failure to stop activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the communist nation, Yonhap reported.
Since June last year, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) cut off ties in protest against Seoul’s inability to stop civic activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the DPRK.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged personal letters several times since April to communicate about issues on the restored inter-Korean relations, the statement said.
Moon and Kim agreed first to restore the severed inter-Korean communication lines, the statement read. The two leaders also agreed to restore mutual trust and enhance inter-Korean ties at the earliest.
Seoul said the resumed inter-Korean communication lines would play a positive role in the improvement and the development of inter-Korean relations.
PAK TO COMPLETE FENCING OF BORDER WITH AFGHAN BY 14 AUG
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has announced that the fencing work along the Afghan border would be completed by August 14 amid fears of a new refugee crisis due to the large-scale violence in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has already ruled out taking any more refugees due to the ongoing refugee crisis at the Afghan border, The Express Tribune reported. This comes as the UN has said it is witnessing “very intensive movements” of internally displaced Afghans towards the country’s borders as violence escalates.
Earlier this month, UN Deputy Special Representative Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov said: “We are also seeing very intensive movements of the population to the areas, adjusting to the orders, where Iranian and Pakistan borders are now largely closed, and the people are using the illegal border crossing trying to move through those borders.”
During a presser on Monday, Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had said that the fencing along the Afghan border would be completed by 14 August. He said that 46% to 48% of fencing on the border with Iran had also been completed.
The Minister said there have been thousands of foreigners living in Pakistan over the last many years without renewal of visas. Rashid also asked these foreigners to leave Pakistan before August 14 or get their visas renewed through an online application.
AFGHAN VP SALEH CALLS PAK ARMY ‘STRATEGIC MASTER’ OF TERROR INVASION IN AFGHANISTAN
Afghanistan’s first Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Tuesday lashed out at Pakistan saying that its army is the “architect and strategic master” of the ongoing terror invasion of Afghanistan.
The Afghan government has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and preventing the Afghan forces from carrying out military operations against them. Amid the ongoing Taliban offensive, the Afghan Vice President said the propaganda stunts “will not change the reality” of Pakistan. “The propaganda stunts will not change the reality and improve Pakistan’s image in my country. The reality is that Pakistan Army is the architect, strategic master and low profile supplier of the ongoing full-scale terror invasion in my country,” Saleh tweeted.
Quoting a Pakistan author, the Afghan Vice President said the Pakistan army may be able to deceive the public but they cannot fool the intelligence services and strategist circles.
“The reputable Pak author respected Ayesha Siddiqa says GHQ may be able to deceive the public but they cannot fool the intelligence services and strategist circles. Team Bajwa now betting on the UK to promote the Taliban — to get to the US indirectly,” he added.
The ties between the two sides have deteriorated since the daughter of the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan was briefly kidnapped on her way home in Islamabad on 16 July. Thereafter, Kabul recalled its ambassador from Islamabad, demanding punishment for those responsible.
Meanwhile, Afghan former intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil has said that at least 1,000 Pakistani terrorists enter into Afghanistan every day through Spin Boldak border district, which was captured by the Taliban last week.
In a post on Facebook, Nabil on Saturday warned that the country’s defences are in shreds and that disaster will be inevitable if the government did not retake Spin Boldak crossing, a major port of entry between Afghanistan and Pakistan. “If this situation falls on deaf ears and the Taliban are not ousted from Spin Boldak, more Pakistani militias and terrorists in Taliban uniform would freely come into Afghanistan,” Afghanistan Times quoted his post.
He also claimed that Pakistani terrorists and militias are taking preparation for war and direct incursion on Afghanistan soil.
Nabil said that terrorist training and recruitment centres have been reactivated in Pakistan and money is collected from those countries which have an interest in the spread of extremism in the region to achieve their goals.
US COMBAT FORCES TO LEAVE IRAQ BY YEAR END
There will be no US forces with a combat role in Iraq by 31 December, the US and Iraqi governments said in a joint statement.
After the strategic dialogue held in Washington on Monday, the US and Iraqi governments said in a joint statement that there will be no US forces with a combat role in Iraq by 31 December 2021, the US and Iraqi governments said in a joint statement.
The delegations include — Iraq’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Fuad Hussein and the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken. They co-chaired the final session of the Strategic Dialogue, initiated on 11 June 2020, in accordance with the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq (SFA), as per a statement issued by US Department of State. The Iraqi delegation also included representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The joint statement said that the two countries reaffirmed the importance of these discussions, which focused on strengthening the long-term strategic partnership defined by the SFA and on key issues of mutual concern: regional stability, public health, climate change, energy efficiency, energy independence, humanitarian aid, human rights, economic cooperation, and cultural and educational exchanges, among other issues. Iraq provided a detailed account of its efforts to promote the safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons to their home regions, and the US pledged its continued support in this regard.
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