HAF How-To: Have your Member of Congress make a statement for Kashmir Exodus Day

January 19, 2020, known as Kashmir Exodus Day, is the 30th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Hindu population of Kashmir.

Our goal is to properly commemorate the ethnic cleansing of over 350,000 Kashmiri Hindu Pandits from their ancestral homeland in 1989-90 through officials statements from Members of Congress.

Your role is to ask for such a statement from your member of Congress in January.

Here’s how to do it:

STEP ONE

Contact your Representative and Senators

  • Click here to find your Representative and your Senators. You will be prompted to enter your address.
  • Click on the link to be taken to the contact form on their website. Enter your information accordingly.
  • Enter the draft meeting request language below in the message box.

Sample meeting request email

“Dear Representative [or Senator] [Last Name],

As your constituent and a supporter of the Hindu American Foundation, I’m writing to request that Congressman [Last Name] give a 1-minute statement on the [House/Senate] floor commemorating the 30th Anniversary of Kashmir Exodus Day. Please coordinate with the Hindu American Foundation in Washington, DC and they can send you a sample statement for your convenience.

In 1989-90, more than 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus (known as Pandits) were ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homeland in a campaign of intimidation, rape, and murder that resulted in the forced exile of the Kashmir Valley’s indigenous population. As we mark this solemn day, the Hindu American community would like you to recognize this important moment in human history that forever changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, many of whom today call the USA their home.

For more information please visit www.kashmirexodus1990.com or contact Taniel Koushakjian at the Hindu American Foundation at taniel@hafsite.org. Our community looks forward to seeing the [Congressman/woman’s] remarks on this important human rights issue.”

STEP TWO

Set up a meeting with your Representative and Senators

  • After you’ve submitted your request, you should receive a confirmation email stating that someone will follow up with you on your request. Someone will get back to you typically in 1-2 days.
  • If 3 days have passed and there is no response, call the nearest District Office. Ask to speak with the District Director about your meeting request and schedule the meeting.
  • Once the meeting is scheduled, gather 1-3 people to attend the meeting with you and use the talking points in Step 3.
  • Try to find 1-3 people to attend the meeting with you who are professional and can speak articulately to convey the message clearly. Try to keep the meeting to 4 people maximum.

What if the Congressmember is too busy to meet with me?

If the Congressmember is not available to meet with you, that is OK. Say “thank you,” and request to meet with the District Director. The District Director is a very important position: it is essentially the Chief of Staff in the district.

What if both the Congressmember and the District Director are unavailable to meet with me?

If you are unable to setup a meeting, that is also OK. In this case, ask for the District Director’s email and make a request for a Statement on Kashmir Exodus Day via email. Be sure to ask them to coordinate with the Hindu American Foundation staff in Washington, DC so that we can make sure that the request is not lost or ignored.

Sample email request for Kashmir Exodus Day

“Dear [fill in name],

Thank you for trying to arrange a meeting with me and other Hindu American constituents. I’m sorry we couldn’t arrange a mutually agreeable time to meet. The purpose of my outreach is to request that Congressman [fill in name] give a 1-minute statement on the (House/Senate) floor commemorating the 30th Anniversary of Kashmir Exodus Day when the House returns in January. Please coordinate with the Hindu American Foundation in Washington, DC and they can send you a draft statement to use. They are CCd on this email. Please let me know if you have any questions and we look forward to seeing the Congressman’s remarks on this important human rights issue.

Sincerely, [fill in your name]”

STEP THREE

Prepare for your meeting

Before your meeting, do your homework.

  • Visit the Congressmember’s website and read their biography.
  • Find out their background — educational, professional. What issues do they care about the most?
  • Make a connection: Perhaps you went to the same university, or your kids attend the same high school, or maybe you’ve met them before at a local event.
  • Talking about similarities, mutual interests, or some connection that you have is a great way to start a meeting.
  • Before you walk in, plan out who is going to talk, who is going to say what, and assign someone (ideally a constituent, ie. someone living in the district) to clearly make the ask for the statement.
  • Also, make sure you and your team are all dressed professionally, ie business formal.

What to say and do during your meeting

The purpose of your meeting is to secure a Statement for the Record from the Member of Congress. Below are some talking points to use when making the ask during your meeting.

Talking Points

  • Hindus of Kashmir are known as ‘Kashmiri Pandits’.
  • Kashmiri Pandits are the indigenous people of the Kashmir Valley.
  • In 1989-90, a brutal campaign of targeted killings, murders, rapes, threats, forced conversions, and ethno-religious cleansing forced more than 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits to flee their ancestral homes.
  • The Kashmir Pandits were victims of an Islamist insurgency sponsored by Pakistan and carried out by their proxy Hizbul Mujahideen, which is a US and UN designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, that still exists and carries out terrorist attacks in Kashmir today.
  • Kashmir Pandits were given the choice to convert to Islam, leave, or die.
  • Kashmiri Hindu women were often the targets of violence.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to live in refugee camps in Jammu and throughout the region, some of which still exist today.
  • Given the previous status of the state, these refugees became Internally Displaced People in their own country.
  • Although the campaign to eliminate Hindus from Kashmir occurred over many weeks and months, the world commemorates Kashmir Exodus Day on January 19th.
  • The Hindu American Foundation is happy to work with your office and provide a draft statement to assist in this request.

Tips on effective communication

  • Smile, even when you are talking. It comes through!
  • Make eye contact with the person you are talking to. Speak directly to them.
  • Speak slowly, articulately, and clearly.
  • Always be calm and professional, even if you disagree on something.
  • Make it personal, tell your story, relate to the person you are meeting.

If you have a good meeting, take pictures with the Congressmember or the District Director and send it to kashmir@hafsite.org. We will post it on social media and share online. You can also share it online yourself, being sure to tag @HinduAmerican.

STEP FOUR

Follow up with the office. Coordinate with HAF.

  • If you haven’t heard back on your request for the Statement within one week, follow up. You can call or email the District Office.
  • Government offices are often addressing numerous constituent requests, and yours is only one of them.
  • Once you have confirmation of a statement, say thank you and coordinate with the HAF team in Washington, DC.
  • When sending a follow up email, cc kashmir@hafsite.org to keep us in the loop.

Give HAF Your Feedback!

After your meeting, please fill out the HAF Kashmir Exodus Day Campaign: Government Outreach Feedback Form

Please fill out a new form for every meeting, if you arrange multiple meetings.

Were these steps helpful? How can we improve upon them? Is there anything else we should know? Email us at kashmir@hafsite.org.