Friday, September 28, 2007
KPs in US International Religious Freedom Report 2007 by Neeraj Santoshi(in Indian Express)
The US Government has categorically raked up the issues of the displaced Kahmiri Hindus and the atrocities meted out to them in the insurgency ridden Jammu and Kashmir, in its recently released report and expressed concern over their plight.
The US State Department in its annual International Religious Freedom Report, released on September 14, has stated in its section on India that ``Terrorist groups perpetrated atrocities against civilians, including minority Hindu members of the Pandit (Hindu Brahmin) community, in the long-lasting insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir''. The report states that `` Kashmiri Hindus remained vulnerable to violence. Most lived in refugee camps outside of the valley awaiting safe return. ''
The International Religious Freedom Report 2007 was released by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour. Emphasising that U.S. Embassy and the three U.S. Consulates continued to promote religious freedom through discussions with the country's senior leadership, as well as with state and local officials, the report further adds, ``Mission officers also monitored the plight of internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus, known as Pandits, who fled their home areas in the valley of Kashmir starting in 1989 due to attacks on them by terrorists seeking to drive out non-Muslim minorities'' .
During meetings with key leaders of all significant religious communities, U.S. senior officials discussed reports of ``harassment of minority groups, converts, and missionaries, as well as state-level legislation restricting conversion, the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, and the plight of displaced Kashmiri Pandits'', adds the report. Giving a detailed account of Displaced Kashmiri Hindus, the report says that approximately 4,778 Pandit families from Jammu and Kashmir still were living in 12 refugee camps in Jammu at the end of the reporting period, and 238 families were still in Delhi's 14 camps.
The reports also stresses that militants tried to disturb the inter-religious harmony across India by their violent activities. The reports points out that the, ``terrorists attempted to provoke interreligious conflict by detonating bombs in Hyderabad in May 2007, in Nanded (Central Maharashtra) in February 2007, in the Muslim majority town of Malegaon (North Maharashtra) in September 2006, and in commuter trains in Mumbai in July 2006''. The reports also maintains that in India ``The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the National Government generally respected this right in practice. However, some state and local governments limited this freedom in practice''.
Commenting on the references of displaced Kashmiri Hindus in the report, Dr Ajay Chrungoo, leader of the frontline Kashmiri Pandit organisation, Panun Kashmir told The Indian Express that report has vindicated the Hindu dimension of the Kashmir issue, with international bodies now increasingly realizing that the forced displacement of the Hindus from Kashmir valley is a very important issue, which needs to be addressed. ``The international recognition of our issues is the result of the struggle launched by the Pandit groups during last 17 years of exile. The significant part of the report is that it has categorically mentioned that terrorists are bent upon to disturb the religious harmony across the country. What happened first in valley, is now happening across India. Terror has become a pan-India phenomenon now with global linkages'', he asserted.