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Home > News > Columnists > Lalit Koul

Mute spectators or change activists? Who are you?

June 18, 2007

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Aaatankvaadiyon ne mujhe 'kaafir' kaha,
Bharat sarkar nay mujhe 'migrant' kaha,
Mere bandhuon ne mujhe 'sharnarthi' kaha. Aakhir, kaun hoon main?

Swatantar Bharat ka ek swatantar nagrik?
Ya is ke shatranj ki bisaat pe ek mohra?

Every year, June 20 is observed as World Refugee Day all over the world. As is the practice, this year too, this day will be observed in India as well. Various political leaders will make symbolic speeches. Various NGO activists will organise sit-ins, memorial services and make passionate appeals. The next day, mainstream newspapers may print brief news items about these events on page 21 below the fold. And then we will wait for June 20, 2008.

And the cycle will continue.

While politicians and NGO activists go through this ritual, the actual sufferers -- the refugees for whom this day is actually observed continue to fight for their survival. Right here in India, for the last 17 years, we have more than 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus languishing as refugees in their own country.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Islamic terrorists ethnically cleansed the whole Kashmiri Hindu community from the Kashmir valley by engaging in selective and targeted killings and the world remained silent.

Seventeen World Refugee Days have been observed since this forsaken community was forced to go through the seventh mass exodus in its history but the community is still without a home.

Seventeen World Refugee Days have been observed since the brutal and cruel killings of Kashmiri Hindus prompted the ugly displacement of this community, but the refugee families still live in sub-standard inhumane conditions in single 10x10 refugee camp rooms in the scorching heat of Jammu plains. What a shame!

It is shocking that while Kashmiri Hindu refugees are living, rather dying under appalling conditions, Jammu and Kashmir [Images] Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is getting royal treatment. He is soon going to live in a 66-room palace, which has 15 presidential suites overlooking the famous Dal Lake.

This new official residence is going to be renovated by the state government at a cost of a whopping Rs 11 crore (Rs 100 million).

This is the sixth chief minister's official residence in the state of Jammu & Kashmir that is being renovated using taxpayer's money since an elected government returned to power in J&K in 1996. What a shame!

It is a shame that in a country that is based on the principles of secularism, democracy and equal rights for all, there are more than 400,000 Indians-by-birth languishing as refugees in their own country. What a shame!

It has become fashionable for political parties and NGOs to organise such observance days like World Refugee Day. For them, these are photo-ops to promote themselves but they do not realise that such events reopen the wounds that these refugees have been trying hard to fill. These wounds are deep-rooted and will take generations to heal but try these refugees do. But every year, these camera-hugging politicians and NGOs make a point of reopening those wounds. What a shame!

In the absence of any appreciable support from any governmental agency, mainstream media outlets, political parties, NGOs, and Human Rights organisations, Kashmiri Hindu youth have taken it upon themselves to make the world aware of their status -- the status in which they have absolutely no fundamental rights, no rights to live freely in their own homeland, no rights to practice the religion of their choice, no economic and political rights.

These youth have initiated a movement to connect back to their roots -- roots that are waiting for them in the vale of Kashmir.

These young and progressive minds are organising an event on World Refugee Day, not to promote World Refugee Day, but to create awareness about the denial of fundamental rights to this refugee community of Kashmiri Hindus. This shall be the one event in Delhi that will go where those facades' from NGOs and political parties will not go.

This event will showcase a documentary And the World Remained Silent, produced and directed by filmmaker Ashoke Pandit. This documentary depicts the conditions that were created in Kashmir in 1989-1990 to bring the Kashmiri Hindu community to the verge of extinction. It shows the harsh and dark realities about how one community got annihilated while the world remained silent.

It will also screen two key videos featuring Yasin Malik and Bitta Karate (Farooq Ahmed Dar), where they acknowledge their roles.

And guess what? Yasin Malik is these days free and as a senior member of the Hurriyat Conference working towards Jammu and Kashmir's secession from India. Bitta Karate is also free and practicing politics in Kashmir after he was released by the Government of India because the prosecution could not build a case against him.

Only in India can you have someone admitting, on camera, his role and the prosecution not able to build a case against him. What a shame!

If you believe in securing the nation -- the nation of Bharata, then spend some time visiting the blog to understand what Kashmiri Hindus have suffered and then be part of this event on June 20 (event details below).

It is time for all of us to stand up for Kashmiri Hindu refugees and send a strong, loud and clear signal to the government that we will not allow our nation to become a banana republic where terrorists roam free with Z-level official security while Indian Kashmiri Hindus, who believe in India and the Indian flag, live like refugees with no home that they can call their own.

Do we stand up for those whose human rights get violated?

Do we fight for fair and timely justice?

Do we make our voices heard?

Do we become the change that we want to bring about?

Do we want to be part of a movement that will secure the pillars of our nation?

Or

Do we stand as mute spectators in our society?

The answer lies within us and the choice is ours.

Event Details:

Date: June 20, 2007
Time: 6.30 PM

Venue: Main Auditorium, Sri Satya Sai International Centre, Pragati Vihar, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

Lalit Koul is the publisher and editor of a web-based journal Kashmir Herald, available at http://www.kashmirherald.com and can be reached via e-mail at editor@kashmirherald.com

Note: The views expressed in this guest column are exclusively those of the author and should not be attributed to any organisation he belongs to and/or represents or to rediff.com


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