Please find below our open letter to Congressman Bradley James Sherman, from the Kashmiri Overseas Association:
“Dear Honorable Brad Sherman,
On behalf of the Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA) executive committee, the KOA Board and the majority of the Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) who are members of KOA, I humbly request that you note our story that got lost when you focused on the Kashmir issue in the congressional hearing on October 22nd 2019.
“KOA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit socio-cultural organization, aimed to preserve the Kashmiri Pandit identity and help the needy displaced community in refugee camps. KOA is a national outfit with ten regional chapters with an elected Board with 2-year terms, documented bylaws, systems and procedures as well as a non-profit status to pursue community actions. In 1990, the focus of KOA changed when over 99 percent of Kashmiri Pandits (Indigenous Inhabitants), were ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir Valley by Islamic terrorists. As a result, the community mobilized to focus on the displaced community of Pandits who were languishing in temporary tents, with no help left to fend for themselves. This led to a number of initiatives by KOA. These programs remain active 30 years later as our less educated and below mean people still live in refugee camps.
“Sir, the goal of the hearing on October 22nd was to bring forth “The Human Rights in South Asia” but the hearing failed in doing so as it left out one of the indigenous races of Jammu and Kashmir against whom human rights violations have been committed for the last 30 years. Without their testimony, the committee hearing promoted anti-Hindu sentiment, peddle an anti-Indian propaganda machine to appease the Muslim population in the United States and or the globe.
“Though you had invited panelists with varying perspectives, the hearing was conducted to favor a one-sided narrative which was clearly illustrated with only three of the six panelists dominating the hearing.
“Aarti Tikoo Singh, is a victim of the brutal forced exodus of Kashmiri Hindus of 1990, is also a journalist who was in the valley of Kashmir a fortnight ago. She is an eyewitness of the ground situation. Who better to talk about the situation than her? It was clear that she getting cut off multiple times to express herself.
“We were hopeful when you asked what happened to the 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits who left the valley 30 years ago, but to our quick dismay, you never gave her the opportunity to expand her response. It was clear that you did not intend to hear reality.
“Dear Sir, let me explain what happened to those 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits.
“First and foremost, they did not leave the valley, as you incorrectly stated at the hearing, they were forced to leave by Islamic terrorists. It started with targeted killings of Hindus, gang rapes of women, followed by gruesome mass murders. Mosques and crowds chanted slogans to Kashmiri Pandits to either convert to Islam or die or leave. Pamphlets with similar messages, were plastered on our doors and alleyways. We were left to bear the horrors of terrorism on our own with many homes, businesses, and temples burned to the ground. We became refugees in our own country, some forced to live in squalid tent camps.
Sir, thirty years later, people who were educated and had means have scattered throughout the world and India. Those who were less fortunate and less educated are still languishing in refugee camps under subhuman conditions. Each of us has our own stories of our lost childhood, lost homes mixed with the feelings of lost friendships, betrayal and a feeling of being disowned, orphaned and uprooted. “There have been multiple articles published in peer reviewed journals detailing the mental and physical consequences of this ethnic cleansing engineered by the terrorists (glad to provide references upon request).
“The denial, misinformation, and silence of the forced exodus of the Kashmiri Hindu community has been rampant in narratives by the press and in discussions and debates all across the US post abrogation of the articles.
“Alas! it got lost in the congressional hearing as well.
“Our ethnic group is at the verge of extinction! KOA is not a political organization, but It is imperative on KOA to educate our fellow citizens and to make all efforts to get our voices heard. Our congressional briefing on October 16th, 2019 in collaboration with Indo-American Community Federation (IACF) and USINPAC was one such effort. sponsored by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, was on “Kashmir the Way Forward,” hoping to promote pluralism, reconnect and reintegrate the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir following the removal of Articles 370 and 35A earlier this year. It was attended by Congress members Ro Khanna, Mike Thompson, Zoe Lofgren, Mark Desaulneir and Dorthy Matsui. The chairman of House of Foreign Relations Committee, Elliot Engel, also attended the event.
“I have also contacted Mr. Francisco Bencosme of Amnesty International who also testified at the hearing. I will like to invite him to visit our refugee camps in Jammu where there are no restrictions to visit now and never have been for the last 3 decades. I am looking forward to his response.”
Dr. Shakun Munshi Malik