HAF Renews Call for Justice for Kashmiri Pandits on Human Rights Day

Washington, D.C. (December 10, 2015) -- The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) observed Human Rights Day today amidst a renewed call for justice for Kashmiri Pandits.

“65 years ago, the United Nations proclaimed December 10th as Human Rights Day to highlight the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all peoples of the world,” said Samir Kalra, Esq. HAF’s Senior Director and Human Rights Fellow. “Today, that promise remains unfulfilled for Kashmiri Pandits, who continue to be deprived of justice and their fundamental human rights, 25 years after being religiously cleansed from their ancestral homeland.”

In 1989-1990, more than 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits (the indigenous Hindu population from the Kashmir Valley) were forced out from the Kashmir Valley in India’s State of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani sponsored Islamic militants. Fleeing a systematic campaign of violence, including massacres, rape, threats, and intimidation by Islamic extremists, thousands of Kashmiri Hindu families sought refuge in makeshift camps in the cities of Jammu and New Delhi.

According to the Foundation’s annual human rights report, Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights 2014-2015, there has been little change to their conditions as thousands of Pandits continue to live in decrepit refugee camps, and the vast majority have been unable to safely return to the Kashmir Valley. The report similarly documents the discrimination, violence, and restrictions on religious freedom faced by Hindu minorities in countries throughout South Asia and other parts of the world.

“It is incumbent upon the central Indian government and the Jammu and Kashmir state government to comprehensively address this lingering tragedy and finally accord the Pandits with the full dignity, security, and basic civil liberties they have been denied for so many years,” said Rajiv Pandit, HAF Executive Council Member and a Kashmiri Pandit. “Officially recognizing them as Internally Displaced Persons will go a long way towards that goal and is long overdue.”

The Foundation also announced plans to launch a Kashmiri Pandit Digital Archive in early 2016 to keep attention focused on this historic ethno-religious cleansing and the community’s current plight. Kalra noted that the oral history project will document the experiences of Kashmiri Pandit survivors and their family members through the collection of stories, interviews, pictures, and videos.