Kashmir 101 Fact Sheet: Kashmiri Hindu Human Rights

Political HistoryWho are the Kashmiri Pandits | Current Status of Human Rights | Terrorism in KashmirH. Res 387 | Download the Fact Sheet (pdf)

Political History of Kashmir

  • At the time of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, the former Princely State of Kashmir was ruled by the Hindu Dogra (ethnic group native to the state) Maharaja Hari Singh.
  • The Maharaja joined the Indian Union after Pakistan orchestrated an invasion of Kashmir using Pashtun tribesman and regular military personnel. Following the Pakistani invasion, the Maharaja of Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession, the standard legal mechanism used by the Princely states of British India, and formalized Kashmir’s legal accession to India.
  • The accession was also approved by the largest and most popular Kashmiri political party, the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, led by the charismatic Muslim leader, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah.
  • Indian military forces were only deployed to Kashmir upon the signing of the Instrument of Accession and at the request of the Maharaja and approval of Sheikh Abdullah, in order to stop the advancing Pakistani military and tribal forces.
  • The conflict led to an all out war between the two countries and India then sought the intervention of the United Nations, which created the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to examine the situation.
  • In April 1948, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 47, requiring (1) demilitarization of the region, and (2) a plebiscite to decide the future of the former Princely State.
  • The Resolution, however, made clear that Pakistan must first withdraw its military personnel and tribesmen from the State and prevent any further intrusion into the State of such fighters, as a necessary precondition to holding a plebiscite.
  • A UNCIP report found that Pakistan not only violated its obligations under UN Security Resolution 47, but actually increased its troop presence in what is now Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), making the question of a plebiscite moot.
  • The terms of a plebiscite under Resolution 47 further required that all subjects of the State, regardless of religion, shall be free and safe to express their views and vote on the question of accession, and minorities in all parts of the State should be accorded adequate protection. These conditions were violated, however, when Hindus were forced to flee from PoK in 1947 and subsequently driven out of the Kashmir Valley in 1989 by Islamist militants, permanently changing the demographics of the State and rendering any plebiscite inequitable to minorities in Kashmir.
  • The former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir has a total area of 85,807 square miles, but Pakistan continues to occupy approximately 28,160 square miles in contravention of Resolution 47, while China illegally occupies 16,500 square miles. This territorial division now makes an plebiscite impractical.
  • India's state of Jammu and Kashmir consists of three regions, Jammu, the Kashmir Valley, and Ladakh, and is home to a religiously diverse population that includes Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Muslims.
  • In 1956, the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly voted to approve the merger of Kashmir with India.

Who are the Kashmiri Pandits

  • Kashmiri  Pandits are Hindus indigenous to the Kashmir Valley in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. They are the original inhabitants of Kashmir and have a unique ethno-religious culture that dates back more than 5,000 years.
  • Ancient Kashmir was renowned as a center for Hindu and Buddhist learning and had a majority Hindu population until the 14th century C.E. Islamic invasions in the region, however, led to several historic mass migrations of Hindus from Kashmir.
  • Beginning in 1989, there was an organized and systematic campaign by Islamist militants to cleanse Hindus from Kashmir, involving documented massacres of innocent civilians, rapes, threats, assassinations, and intimidation. Public announcements were placed in newspapers, sermons made from mosques, and posters hung on houses ordering all Kashmiri Hindus to leave the Valley, threatening violence if they did not. This campaign of terror targeted civilians, elected officials, police officers, and military personnel.
  • Between 1989 and 1991, nearly 400,000 Pandits (over 95% of the Hindu population from the Kashmir Valley) were forced to leave their ancestral homes, fleeing to other parts of India.
  • Several hundred Kashmiri Pandit cultural and religious sites have been destroyed, damaged, or illegally occupied since 1989.

Current Status of Human Rights

  • Under international law, Kashmiri Pandits are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), or persons forced to flee their homes as a result of armed conflict, violence, or human rights violations, who have not crossed an international boundary. The Indian government, however, officially categorizes them as migrants.
  • More than 20 years after the violence began, displaced Pandits are unable to safely return to their homeland, and many continue to live in temporary refugee camps in the cities of Jammu and Delhi. The camps are overcrowded and lack adequate facilities and basic necessities.
  • Pandits living in refugee camps also lack educational and employment opportunities, and experience serious health issues, including high incidence of disease, psychological problems, and high death rates.
  • Less than 4,000 Kashmiri Pandits remain in the Valley today, living with daily threats of violence and terrorism.

Terrorism in Kashmir

  • International security analysts and intelligence reports confirm the role of Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in training, funding, and providing refuge to terrorists operating in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Terrorist organizations active in Kashmir, including Laskhar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, have documented ties with al-Qaeda and other extremist groups attacking American soldiers in Afghanistan. Such groups have been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO’s) by the U.S. Department of State.

Significance of H. Res 387

  • House Resolution 387 (H. Res. 387), sponsored by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), recognizes the religious freedom and human rights violations of Kashmiri Pandits since 1989, and demands that the terrorist infrastructure in the region be dismantled.
  • H. Res 387 furthers America’s commitment to religious freedom and human rights around the world by recognizing the plight of Kashmiri Hindus.
  • H. Res 387 encourages peace and stability in South Asia and sends a strong message that terrorism will not be tolerated, regardless of whether the victims are Hindus in Kashmir, American soldiers in Afghanistan, or Western civilians around the world. It correctly notes that terrorism in the region is backed by FTO’s that receive materiel support by Pakistan.
  • H. Res 387 is currently pending before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.