Kashmiri Pandits protest outside UNHRC

October 31st, 2008 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) Kashmiri Pandits held a silent sit in protest outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office here Friday, demanding that the community, which fled the Kashmir Valley during the peak of militancy 20 years ago, be declared as internally displaced persons (IDPs).The community represented by Kashmiri youth organisations in the capital like Roots in Kashmir, Internally Displaced Youth Front, All India Kashmir Samaj, Panun Kashmir Youth Front and others, along with elderly members of the community in Delhi, presented a five-page memorandum of their demands to Nayona Bose of the UNHCR to be forwarded to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is on a two-day visit to India.

“We welcome the UN secretary on his visit to India. As a community we, therefore, appeal to him to help us - declare the Kashmiri Hindu community as IDPs,” Lalit Ambardar, 35, a qualified engineer who was one of the 100-odd protestors, told IANS.

“The Human Rights Working Group on Minorities in Geneva had recognised Kashmiri Hindus formally as a ‘reverse minority’. So the use of the insulting term of ‘migrants’ for us - a forcibly exiled community - should be removed from all records and communications relating to us henceforth,” Ambardar chorused the protestor’s demand.

Many others protestors were angry about the state to which Kashmiri Hindus have been reduced since insurgency in the Kashmir Valley in 1989-90, when more that 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits fled their homes to escape persecution.

“Historically, Kashmiri Pandits were known to be intellectuals, but now we are rotting away - we are a national waste - we have no political representation, have no geographic ethnicity that we can claim as our own!” fumed Raj Raina, 37.

Raina was unable to get a government job owing to his ‘migrant’ status. He is now self-employed and runs a small printing press.

“When I was forced to leave my home in the Valley, militants threatened us time and again - merge with us (with political and religious views), perish or vanish,” Raina recapitulated memories of the insurgency.

Amongst those present from the community were varsity students, who also held that the current situation was sordid.

“Calling us migrants implies that we had a choice in the matter, when we were actually forced to flee,” said Aditya Raj Kaul, a 22-year-old student activist from Delhi University.

“We have demanded in the memorandum that the UN direct the Indian government to ensure adequate protection to the residual Kashmiri Hindu population living in the Valley. Also that Kashmiri Hindus be restored political and economic rights, giving them equal status rather than second-class citizenship in their native land,” Kaul informed.

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