“Kashmiri Pandits are victims of Genocide.” Deserve Minority Status: Muzaffar Hussain Baig

In its endeavor of outreach to various power corridors of present and past times in the state of Jammu and Kashmir seeking redressal of plight of exiled Kashmiri Pandit community Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora an amalgam of nearly 30 Kashmiri Pandit organizations from India and abroad conducted an International tele conference conclave on Saturday night IST.

The Kashmiri Pandits – Right the Wrong in Kashmir – 2019 conclave was attended by eminent panelists Jb Abdul Rahim Rather, former finance minister and senior member of National Conference and Jb Muzaffer Hussian Baigh, former Member Parliament and senior leader of J&K Peoples Democratic Party. The conclave was hosted by Dr Kundan lal Chowdhary, chairman of GKPD with other founding members Dr Surinder Kaul and Mr Rakesh Kaul from US, and Dr Shafalica Bhan Kotwal from UK and Mr Anil Kachroo as anchor of tele conference conclave.

A minute silence was observed in honor of the brave CRPF jawans martyred in Pulwama attack.

Introducing the GKPD to the panelists, Dr Shafalica Bhan Kotwal termed GKPD as an idea held by hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits living in diaspora across the whole globe with scores of Pandit organizations in India and abroad. Branding pandits as the first target of terrorism in Kashmir, Dr Shafalica said, “Terrorism in Kashmir has led to the genocide and ethnic cleansing of entire Kashmiri Pandit community 30 years back,” condoning the complicity of those in governance she said, “GKPD is committed to hold accountable those who are guilty of genocide and terrorism. GKPD will invoke international reference to supplement what Indians will do inside India and we will be committing our petition to United Nations and affailated bodies in the summer of 2019 followed by similar exercises at the European Economic Community and other international venues.”

Dr Shafalica Bhan further gave reference to the joint memorandum submitted by GKPD with its 30 affiliate organizations and nearly 15000 individuals of the community reflecting the common demand of the community. Addressing the the two panelists she said, “The global audience listening to this conclave will look with interest whether you recognize the KP genocide and would be a natural partner of GKPD to end the scourge of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Chairman GKPD Dr K L Chowdhary welcomed both panelists and the global audience listening to the tele conclave stated, “Kashmir once a place of saints and sages has turned to the breeding ground of terrorists and paradise on earth has been transformed to hell.” Adding, “We must realize that Pulwama is just another manifestation of larger and sinister designs of Pakistan which started 30 years ago with the genocide and ethnic cleansing of KP community and the new radicalized version of talibanised ideology has spread like a swine flu engulfing the entire valley.”

Dr K L Chowdhary while calling upon both the panelists said, “Both of you have to take a call before we are all left irrelevant in Kashmir, you are both aware of the atrocities and violence unleashed on our community that led to our exodus.” He further said, “ GKPD is hosting this conclave ‘Right the Wrong’ and let me make this clear that GKPD is not another organization but the resolve of the community to fight in trauma to convert the collective conscience of genocide and ethnic cleansing perpetrated on us.” Dr Chowdhary said, “GKPD has invited you to this conclave in a hope that with your vast experience in governance and policy circles to share your views in correcting the wrongs that have been done to KP community.” “This conclave,” he said, “Is an opportunity for us to hear your perspective on various aspects and the questions we have sent in advance.”

Addressing the audience, Mr Abdul Rahim Rather said, “He has immense love and respect for the KP community and KPs are an important and integral part of our society and culture.” Applauding the manner in which the exiled community facing all vagaries of exile carried itself he said, “The best thing I like about this community lies in the fact that despite of living in most difficult conditions this community never compromised on the education of its children.” Adding that the issues being faced by KP community is not their issue alone, it is our composite issue considering this community is an inalienable part of the larger self of composite society and this community has immensely contributed for the entire society of Kashmir.”

Mr Rather while acknowledging that events unfurled at an unanticipated pace and many issues of the community could not be addressed and continue to remain unaddressed. He assured the community that with composite efforts the pending issues of the community will be gradually addressed.

Mr Abdul Rahim Rather while answering a question on Internally Displaced Persons status to the exiled Kashmiri Pandits in accordance with UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement said, “It is only the center which has to take a call on it since it does not fall in the domain of State.” While replying question on grant of state subject rights to West Pakistan refugees, Mr Rather questioned the sense of understanding of all those who rake this issue saying the Constitution Of J&K has left no ambiguity over it and we have to abide by what Constitution of state says thus clearly negating the possibility of granting any permanent citizenry rights.

Mr Rather was more forthright and critical of the question posted about investigating the crimes against KP community under Genocide and ethnic cleansing, he said, “Killings have taken place in both communities and while asking for investigation or tribunal we must take an unbiased view and seek it for both communities.

Mr Muzaffar Hussain Baig while addressing the audience said, “1990 will go down in the history of Kashmir and perhaps the rest of India as the one of the darkest days of our history,” adding, “ it was in this year that the mass exodus of the KP community who were the original inhabitants of Kashmir took place in the wake of mass uprising, millions of people marched and the community was made feel so insecure that some of them left only with the clothes that they were wearing.” He added, “This reminds us of the atrocities that were committed on Jews in 20th century.”

Mr Baig while expressing apprehension stated, “As individuals they will flourish wherever they go but I am afraid in a decade or two or three there will be no KP race as such” claiming, “the discontinuation of a civilization and a race which is distinct, and a race which cannot be repeated is the loss of history, is the loss of mankind and particularly the loss of kashmiri muslims.”

While replying to the questions of host Dr K L Chowdhary, Mr Baig said, “ So far as the minority status is concerned, they (KPs) have a right to be declared as Minority, just like muslims are a minority in the rest of country, KPs are entitled to be declared minorities in the state of J&K.”

Replying to another question of the host, Mr Baig acknowledged that growing Wahabism – the radical form of Islam is the threat to civil order in contemporary world; he sought cooperation of all major countries of the world including the United Nations to wage a war against this extremism before it consumes the whole world.

While addressing a direct question by Dr Surinder Kaul about his opinion regarding genocide and ethnic cleansing of the community and if it comes under the purview of genocide and if KP community qualifies for genocide as per Rome statue, Mr Baig very empathetically said, “It does, you certainly qualify, I think there should not be any questions about that.”

The conclave was also addressed by Dr Surinder Kaul and Mr Rakesh Kaul founding members of GKPD who lamented upon the lackadaisical and step motherly treatment meted to the KP community by main stream political parties. They lamented on the mere lip service offered by leaders of the majority community over past 30 years and expressed deep sorrow and resentment over continuous inaction on matters of grave importance for the community. He questioned the panelists as to why the three parts of the State had become so estranged that they were ready to split apart. This was followed  by  a close examination and discussion of issues such as setting up of a Genocide tribunal, IDP status, West Pakistan refugees  permanency status, Rohingya refugees and article 35A and 370.

Mr Rakesh Kaul concluded the Conclave reiterating that Kashmiri Pandits want Justice for their Genocide and Ethnic  Cleansing. They want a Homeland inside the Valley which is secure and sustainable where they can lead their way of life freely.He asserted, “These areour inalienable rights and we will never concede them.”He requested the panelists to support the GKPD UN petition and coopt the GKPD MOU within their party platform.He encouraged them to work with the Apex Body of the Kashmiri Pandits to Right the Wrong expeditiously.

Dr Surinder Kaul informed the audience that representatives of other political parties, Manish Tiwari from Congress, Ravinder Raina from BJP and Sajad Lone from Peoples conference had offered a written consent to be part of this historic conclave, however few hours before the schedule distanced themselves from it  over varied reasons.

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