Kashmiri Pandits seek US help to regain homeland

via http://news.rediff.com/interview/2010/jan/25/kashmiri-pandits-seek-us-help-for-homeland.htm published on January 25, 2010

An international body of Kashmiri Pandits has sought the help of US Government and its lawmakers in the rehabilitation of the community by creation of a separate homeland for them in Jammu and Kashmir .

A delegation of International Kashmir Federation (IKF) met senior State Department officials and influential lawmakers last week; besides submitting a memorandum in this regard to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton .

“This safe haven, also called ‘Panun Kashmir’ meaning ‘My Kashmir’ will allow the Kashmiri Hindus promote their culture in safety,” IKF said in the memorandum to Clinton. “First requirement is survival, culture comes later. Kashmiri Pandits want to return to Kashmir because, first, they have lived there for thousands of years; second, because their jobs are there; third, because the backdrop of their ethos is there,” it said.

“This community is scattered all around India and is very quickly losing its culture and heritage. By carving out this land in the Indian state of Kashmir, the government of India would be allowing this intellectual and very educated community to live without fear of persecution,” IKF said.

“The government of India needs to address the question of the social, political and economic aspirations of the community, which must be considered as an indispensable component of any future settlement on Kashmir,” IKF said. “Twenty years have passed and our people (Kashmiri Pandits) are still disenfranchised politically, socially and economically. More than 45,000 people are still in camps. The state government of Jammu and Kashmir has been busy making false promises while government of India has been consistent with a policy of appeasement,” said Zutshi IkF chairman.

IKF delegates came from New York, California, Washington and Florida . They met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Owen on January 21. They also met Congressmen Mike Honda, Ed Royce, Frank Pallone, Jerry McNerney and Senator Sherrod Brown; briefing them about the ground realties in Kashmir. “It was a very successful set of meetings in which the plight of Kashmiri Pandits was front and center. It was also an achievement that they were further educated of the Kashmir problem and ‘Panun Kashmir’ solution,” said Zutshi. Other members of the IKF delegation were Maharaj Kaul from New York, Deepak Ganju from Florida and Ishani Chaudry from Hindu America Foundation.

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