Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora Seeks Separate Homeland In Valley6 February 2011
Washington DC: Forced to live in exile for more than two decades, the global Kashmiri Pandit diaspora has sought carving out a homeland for them in the north east of the Jhelum river in the Valley with Union Territory status. In a teleconference with Dilip Padgaonkar, one of the three interlocutors appointed by the Indian government on Jammu and Kashmir, the global Kashmiri Pandit diaspora argued that this is the only option to protect this unique and distinct community from becoming extinct. Some 436 Kashmiri Pandits from across the globe - US, New Zealand, France, Australia, Canada, India, Austria, Germany - participated in the tele-conference with Padgaonkar that lasted for more than an hour on Friday. Noting that Kashmiri Pandits must be given a high political stake in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, Padgoankar asserted that return of the Kashmiri Pandits to their 'home with honour and dignity' is one of the top priorities of the interlocutors. California based Jeevan Zutshi, who moderated the session, said that Kashmiri Pandits have become homeless and are on the verge of extinction, since they were forced to leave their homes in and after 1990. 'This is an opportunity for the government of India to create a homeland for them which will not be drawn with religious lines; it will be a place where all secular Kashmiris can again live together to revive Kashmiriyat and promote Sufism, Shavism and harmony,' said Zutshi, chairman of the International Kashmir Federation. 'The Global Kashmiri Pundit diaspora is compelled to endorse carving of homeland in the north east of river Jhelum with Union Territory status and with free flow of Indian constitution as the only option to protect this unique and distinct community from becoming extinct,' said Surinder Kaul. 'Please be informed all the religions including Muslims having faith in Indian constitution are welcome to stay with us in this land,' said Texas-based Kaul. Krishna Bhan from Britain said that in 1990 over 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homeland after militancy began in the Valley. 'The Kashmiri Pandits living in the West are greatly concerned about the issues of Kashmiri Pandits' extinction in Jammu and Kashmir and in the other parts of India due the condition created by their forced exodus from the Valley,' Bhan said, adding that the displaced community with a distinct culture needs to be saved from the threat of extinction. Presenting a document, Lalit Kaul from Massachusetts demanded that the Kashmiri Pandits community be declared as Internally Displaced People (IDP), delink employment packages from our return and rehabilitation in the Valley and hand over the management of Kashmiri Hindu religious shrines, icons and cultural centers to Kashmiri Hindu leadership.