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Destruction and Injustice
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Destruction and Injustice

The  Tribulations   Of   Kashmiri   Pandits


 

Role Of Indian Citizens

Appeal For Help 

Sanjay Kaul  

 

To me “ KASHMIR ” always meant: Knowledge; Austerity; Sympathy; Happiness; Morality; Integrity; and Respect but what it has become today is: Killings; Anger; Sorrow; Horror; Murder; Insurgency; and Rape.  After independence, the ruling elite in Kashmir not only marginalized Kashmiri Hindus but systematically excluded them from one or more of the four basic areas of life: economic, cultural, political and social.  The ongoing insurgency in Kashmir is aimed to convert Kashmir valley into a complete Muslim land.  Hindus of Kashmir became the direct victims of this onslaught; they were killed, raped, their property looted, and temples destroyed.  To save their lives and honor, they were forced to abandon their homes and hearths.  The mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir valley is the biggest human tragedy of last millennium.  For the Hindus of Kashmir, a host of problems, to say the least, have erupted with this mass exodus from the valley.  People are living as refugees in their own country.  It has already been thirteen years of exile from their homeland.  These refugees now live in traumatic conditions, taking refuge in tattered tents, congested halls, under construction government buildings and, of course, some living as tenants in dingy and dilapidated houses.  They live on meager pittance that is doled out to them.  Young men and women are trying to strike bonds in their new environment.  The aging generation is taking solace in nostalgia.  The children who were infants at the time of exodus have grown up to be teenagers now.  Children born and brought up in camps are growing up in a very unhealthy environment with no hope of any future.  All this is compounded by the fact that there is no hope of an honorable return in sight as per the present conditions. We need not forget that we are responsible at this stage to our future generations.  We have to preserve and protect this minority community and help them save their culture and identity while in exile, dispossession and dispersion.  This current situation has posed a multi-faced challenge for them to survive this onslaught.  In fact, it is travail for their existence or extinction.  Under the present circumstances it is necessary to talk about the role that we as Indian citizens and as a matter of fact as world citizens can play in ensuring the survival of minority Hindu community of Kashmir .

 

From times immemorial, Kashmir has had a special place in Bharat.  Our history bears testament to this fact.  In early days, Kashmir was a place of learning and a major contributor to spiritual ways of thinking.  Hinduism and Buddhism found highest expression in Kashmir .  Kashmiris have contributed immensely to the evolution of human thought by contributing to almost all fields of creative human endures like literature, science, art and philosophy. 

 

Our greatest historian Kalhana said, “ Kashmir cannot be won by any military power.” History of Kashmir bears testimony to his statement, Kashmiri’s lived an independent life and never surrendered to any of the invaders.  Advent of Muslim rule and conversions to Islam happened initially through deceit and malice and later through force. 

 

Since Muslim rule and Islam’s dominance in Kashmir , beginning 14th century, Hindus of Kashmir have been subjected to extreme persecution.  To escape religious fanaticism in form of forced conversion, Hindus had to either embrace death, or leave Kashmir more than once during the last six hundred years.  The present exodus of Kashmiri Hindus is actually the fourth mass exodus from Kashmir .  There have been a few instances when a nationalistic leader has put national integrity of India over and above all other interests and sacrificed their everything on the altar of India to save its religion and nationalistic life values.

 

One such instance that is worth sharing here today is the sacrifice of Shri Guru Teg Bahadur.  We all know that Aurangzed was a fundamentalist, after he occupied the throne of Delhi , he tore to shreds the so-called secular policies of his predecessor Mughal rulers.  He had only one goal, to convert Bharat into an Islamic state and dye it in the color of his religion.  At that time, Kashmir still remained a center for learning with Hindu scholars dominating the scene, and as such they became his target.  During 49 years of his rule, Aurangzed deputed 14 Subedars to Kashmir to completely Islamacize it.  One of his Subedars named Iftihar Khan was the cruelest.  After being unable to face anymore of his cruelty, Kashmiri Hindus decided to approach a great nationalist of that time - Shri Guru Teg Bahadur of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab .  A delegation of 500 Kashmiri Hindus led by Pandit Kripa Ram met him, apprised him of their conditions and woes and then appealed for his intervention.

 

Shri Guru Teg Bahadur decided to help.  He sent a message to Aurangzeb which said’ “if you could convert me Guru Teg Bahadur to Islam, every Hindu will become a Muslim but until that happens you have to stop atrocities on Kashmiri Hindus.  On receiving this message, Aurengzeb danced out of delight, he thought that if he could convert this one person, rest would automatically follow. He immediately invited Shri Guru Teg Bahadur to his court in Delhi .  Guru came with three of his disciples.  A debate between the two took place in Aurangzeb’s court.  Loosing ground, Aurengzeb flared up and gave Shri Guru Teg Bahadur two options – embrace death or adopt Islam.  Guru Teg Bahadur chose death.  Guru and his disciples were offered riches, which failed, then they were brutalized and that didn’t work either. Even hardships and intolerable pain was inflicted on them, they were tied to a hot pillar; hot sand thrown on their body.  Finally, one disciple Bhai Dayal was thrown in a boiling pot, second disciple Bhai Sati Das was packed in a bale of cotton and set on fire, third disciple Bhai Mati Das was sawed to death and Guruji was beheaded.  On the appeal of Kashmiri Hindus, a great man of that time sacrificed his life.  This in itself is an example of the basic unity of our nation.  This supreme sacrifice of Shri Guru Teg Bahadur led to a wave of Hindutva, which then swept the entire Bharat.

 

In today’s India , where regionalism, power politics, and dirty game of vote banks and appeasement are part of the game, the exodus of 400,000 minorities of Kashmir did not become an issue of national importance, which is a shame.  Now, the question is “Is there anything that we can do to help as the citizens of India .”  The answer is “Yes.”

 

To ease the pain of refugees, there are many areas where your cooperation could be helpful.  Following is a description of what some of us have been doing to help with details about different kinds programs we have in place for the refugees.  I see following programs as being of primary importance to us where you can help:

  • Help needy community members who are still living in refugee camps,

  • Help preserve and protect Kashmiri Hindu community and its culture,

  • Identify, preserve and maintain places of worship/temples in Kashmir valley,

  • Inform and educate US Senators, Congressmen, and other people of influence about the designs of Muslim fundamentalists and the atrocities they inflicted on Kashmiri Hindu community, and

  • Ask and demand visiting Indian dignitaries about what they are doing for this patriotic community of India.

We have a non-profit organization registered here in the United States called Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA).  All the programs are coordinated and managed through this organization.  Funds are raised from our members and well wishers.  All programs are geared to provide help in four main areas, namely, education, environment, health and social welfare.

 

Education                 

Save-A-Smile -      

1) Sponsor-A-Child Program

  2) Educational Assistance Program

Development of Educational Institutions  

Environment                 Sanitation Projects - Construction of lavatories and bathrooms  
Health Medical facilities and equipment: a dispensary, a medical van; Financial help for medical treatment  
Social Welfare

Financial assistance for hardships due to injury, death, cultural preservation and Safeguarding social institutions

Educational Programs for Children: Save-A-Smile

Kashmiri Overseas Association has implemented two programs under Save-A-Smile project.  Sponsor-A-Child (ages 5 to 17) and Educational Assistance (ages 17 and up) programs, both aim to provide educational opportunities to the children directly affected by any kind of tragedy.  Hundreds of children have benefited from the contributions of generous and compassionate sponsors.  While individuals worldwide have contributed to these programs more children are in need of our financial support than currently available funds can support.  There are many more who deserve our assistance.  The children are selected on the basis of merit and poverty.  Application forms are advertised in local daily newspapers and also distributed in the refugee camps.  At present, the needs of all needy and qualified applicants are not being met.  Facts about these volunteer-driven programs are given below:  

Goal: Provide for tuition, school supplies and other expenses to school and college bound children who are currently living in refugee camps.

 

Zero-Overhead Program: 100% of the funds collected by KOA are distributed to the needy children through a registered non-profit organization in India .  All people managing these programs are volunteers.

 

Sponsor-A-Child Project - This program is geared for age group 5 year – 17 year olds.  It provides financial assistance to economically under privileged of our community, mostly from Jammu camps.  Cost: US $200/year or Indian Rupees 10,000/year.  In the first year, 1995, 36 children were supported.  Currently, 245 school going children are supported by a total of 145 sponsors.  Contact: Shri Pran Kaul at 510-795-9641 or e-mail him at pkaul01@yahoo.com, if you want to sponsor a child.

 

Educational Assistance Project – This program is geared for age group 17 year and up.  It provides financial assistance based on “Merit and Poverty.” Through this program, sponsors pay for the tuition expanses for a vocational degree program.  Cost: US $ 300/year or Indian Rupees 15,000/year.  In the first year (1995-96), 41 students were supported.  Currently, 196 students (Yr. 2001-2002) are being supported.  By the end of June 2001, a total of 203 students have graduated through this program, KOA is proud of this achievement.  Contact: Shri Tej Kaul at 716-773-3416 or e-mail him at tkaul@adelphia.net, if you want to sponsor a child.

 

Educational Institution: KOA supports an elementary school at Udhampur run by Shri Bhat Memorial Trust (Non-profit) and provides operational expanses.  This school caters to the need of Batal Ballian refugee camp residents at Udhampur town of Jammu district.  It provides both educational and employment opportunities to the camp residents.  Education is free to all those who cannot afford it.  To own and manage this educational institution helps boost the moral and instigates a sense of pride in community members.

 

Sanitation Projects: Construction of lavatories and bathrooms.  KOA helped build lavatories in Jammu refugee camps in association with a local NGO and UNICEF.  It was observed that refugee camps lacked sanitation and sewage.  About 20 families were using one toilet and a single tap out in the open for drinking, washing and bathing purposes.  We worked with UNICEF to build toilets and bathrooms.  Fifty such units have already been built.

 

Health: People in refugee camps are suffering numerous ailments. harsh climate, unhealthy living conditions, high stress level have led to depression and a variety of ailments among the refugees.  Problem is compounded by lack of medical facilities and equipment in the nearby areas.  There are instances where some people cannot even afford medication for their ailments.  In past, we have provided financial help for a mobile dispensary and a medical van.  We continue to provide financial help for medical treatment of terminal diseases.  Demand is very high; there is a constant need for support, please help.

 

Social Welfare: We have provided financial assistance for hardships due to injury and death, culture preservation and safeguarding social institutions.  Due to lack of opportunities and avenues to keep them busy, youth indulge in un-social behavior and activities.  Last year we supported 25 families.  Some of them did not have enough to make their ends meet.

 

The Kashmiri Hindu community is facing a very hostile atmosphere politically, economically, culturally and socially.  This peace loving community suffers from psychological tremors, resulting from anxiety and depression.  I request you individually and collectively to give us the benefit of your rich experience and wisdom and send us your valued suggestions and much needed funding.  Help us in our moment of need and for the unity of India .  Open your heart and come forward to help – be the guru Teg Bahadurs of today.  We can only achieve the task of preserving this vibrant community together through concerted and collective efforts.  Kindly accept this request and give the minority Hindu community of Kashmir the benefit of your experience, influence and financial help.  Thank you. May God bless us all?  

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