On 14th November, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission congregated for a hearing to examine the human rights situation in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in India in a historical and national context. The Commission acknowledged in its official brief that though India’s move to abrogate Article 370 was sudden, Kashmir has always been a troubled state. Mentioning the communication restriction and the preventive detention of leaders, the commission sought to examine the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the context of the region’s history and larger patterns of rights violations in India and Pakistan, and also offer recommendations for action by Congress. The hearing was open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. One of the witnesses testifying in the commission was columnist Sunanda Vashisht.
Vashisht started off by talking about Tom Lantos himself, after whom the commission is named. She said that the late Congressman was a Holocaust survivor and had said that Indians and Jews share a passionate commitment for the rule of law and the mindless, vicious Islamic terrorism (indicating how Jews and Hindus are both persecuted by Islamic terrorism).
Invoking the late journalist Daniel Pearl who was beheaded by Islamic terrorists, Sunanda Vashisht tweaked his last words and said, ‘My mother is a Kashmiri Hindu, my father is a Kashmiri Hindu, I am a Kashmiri Hindu. Our homes are lives in Kashmir were destroyed by radical Islamic terrorism”.
Sunanda went on to say that as she speaks at the Commission, she is choked by the memory of those she represents as they voice was brutally extinguished in the most brutal fashion. She said she is a member of the minority Hindu community from Kashmir and the community is the victim of the most brutal ethnic cleansing in independent India. She said is a survivor, but the young lab assistant from Kashmir was not so lucky. She recalls a brutal murder of Girija Tickoo, a lab assistant who was abducted, gang-raped and cut in two halves on a chain saw while she was still alive by Islamic terrorists in Kashmir.
In a booming voice, Sunanda Vashisht, while recalling the brutal murder of Girija Tickoo said that her only crime was her faith.
She then remembers BK Ganjoo. Another Kashmiri Hindu who was murdered brutally at the hands of Islamic terrorists in Kashmir. He was an engineer who hid inside a rice container and would have still been alive had his neighbours, who he trusted, Hindus trusted, did not give up his location. He was shot through the container and his wife was made to eat the blood-soaked rice, remembered Sunanda.
In a booming voice yet again, Sunanda Vashisht says that BK Ganjoo’s crime was his faith.
Sunanda Vashisht then says that the Kashmiri Hindu community of Kashmir has seen ISIS level of brutality 30 years before the US was even introduced to the concept of radical Islamic terror.
She then said that she is glad that these hearings are happening today because when she and her family lost everything to Radical Islamic terror, the world remains silent. She painfully asks where the Human Rights Commissions were when her rights were being taken away. Where they were on the night of 19th January 1990 when there were voices blaring from the mosques that they wanted Kashmir with Hindu women but without Hindu men. She goes on to question the Human Rights protectors and asks where were they when her feeble grandfather stood with two kitchen knives ready to kill her and her mother to save them from the much worse fate that awaited them had they landed in the hands of the terrorists.
Sunanda then said that Kashmiri Hindus were given three choices – flee, convert or die and around 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus fled.
Talking about how she is still not welcome in Kashmir and not allowed to practise her faith without fear, she says her home is occupied illegally like those of countless others and those who haven’t been occupied have been burned down. She spoke about the Hindus temples of Kashmir that were broken, desecrated and lay in ruins in Kashmir.
She said that every attempt has been made the eradicate Hinduism from the valley and today, Kashmir is home to only one religion (Islam) and that this is by design. Sunanda then speaks about how it is not just the Hindus but also Sikhs and Christians who have been cleansed from Kashmir.
“The Islamist State of Kashmir where other religions are not welcome & tolerance of any other viewpoint is absent is no citadel of Human Rights. Terrorism is the ultimate opponent of Human Rights. Human Rights cannot & should not take precedence over Human Life”, Sunanda said.
She then spoke about how apple traders and shop keepers are shot by terrorists in Kashmir and the simple act of earning their livelihood is threatened. She attributed this brutality to the fact that if traders and businessmen earn their livelihood, it would show that Kashmir is moving towards normalcy and hence, they are not allowed to do so by terrorists.
“Today I’m delighted that Kashmiris have the same rights as Indian citizens. If something as serious as Women’s right to own property and granting LGBTQ rights amongst many others has been accomplished by abrogation of Article 370, internet restoration isn’t far”, she said.
Countering a Sikh witness who furthered the same agenda of demonising India, Sunanda said that it breaks her heart that her Sikh colleague spoke about the rights of Sikhs but failed the mention the Chattisinghpura Massacre of Kashmir. She said that the massacre happened when Clinton visited India and he didn’t mention that because it would go against his agenda. She said there is no proof that Sikhs are looking for their right to self-determination.
She further said, “Path forward we have to help India in eradicating radical Islamist terror in Kashmir. We’ve to be cognisant of this fact. Why is it that nobody on this panel except me talked about Islamist terror? Is Islamist terror a figment of my imagination? No, it isn’t”.
She said that all deaths have happened in Kashmir since 5th August by Islamic terrorists and not one person has been killed by Indian security personnel.
The full Commission hearing can be watched below: