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The lost Kashmiri Pandits in India

“The government should recognize it as genocide, an ethnic cleansing, and seriously order a probe into it"

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An Indian Kashmiri Hindu (Pandit) prays during an annual Hindu festival at the Khir Bhawani temple in Tullamulla, a village near Srinagar Image: Benarnews

Raj Kumar is a Pandit or Hindu from Kashmir, but he has never visited his ancestral home in the troubled region.

“Fear of religious persecution, or worse, being killed, has prevented my family from settling down, or even going there,” said Kumar, 23, a pharmacy student based in Chandigarh, which lies some 650 km (404 miles) from Baramulla, a district in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir from where his Pandit family hails.

The family moved to Chandigarh, in the northern state of Punjab, in January 1990, just months after an insurgency broke out in the predominantly Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir, as separatist factions picked up arms to demand freedom from Indian rule.

Kumar’s family is among some 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits – Hindu natives of the region – who were forced to migrate en masse to various parts of India on Jan. 19, 1990, after facing repeated threats and bouts of violence from Kashmiri Muslims.

Kashmiri Pandits Image: wikipedia
Kashmiri Pandits. Image: wikipedia

A total of 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed by Muslim militants before the minority group’s exodus from the Kashmir Valley, government records show. But the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, a group of migrant Pandits, puts the figure at around 400.

An estimated 60,000 to 70,000 people have died since the insurgency broke out in Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan, according to Indian government figures.

“Chandigarh is a nice city, but it has never felt like home. Our home is Kashmir,” said Kumar, who was born three years after his family was forced out of the valley.

“My parents tell me our house was destroyed by some people just days after they left Kashmir. But they say we can rebuild our house if the government facilitates our return,” he said.

Five demands

For the last 26 years, Kashmiri Pandits have regularly held protests and rallies in New Delhi, demanding measures from the Indian government for their safe return to and resettlement in Kashmir.

One such rally took place in Delhi on Jan. 19, the 26th anniversary of the exodus.

Kashmiri Pandits rally in Delhi
Kashmiri Pandits rally in Delhi, Wikimedia Commons

During the rally dozens of young Kashmiri Pandits, like Kumar, held placards that read, “I am a Kashmiri but I have yet to see my home,” and “I’m lost, please take me home.”

The protesters also submitted a five-point memorandum of demands to Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Among their demands, the Pandits are seeking assistance for resettlement, punishment for those who committed violence against Pandits, and revocation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 370 grants special autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, but is considered a major roadblock in the resettlement of Pandits, because it prohibits people who live outside the state to settle there.

Also Read: Plight of Kashmiri Pandits

“We are hopeful that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government will take immediate steps to help Kashmiri Pandits resettle in their homeland,” Bhushan Lal, a member of the All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC), which is spearheading the rehabilitation cause for Kashmiri Pandits, told BenarNews.

He was referring to the Hindu nationalist party that heads India’s ruling coalition.

“Several promises have been made, but neither the previous Congress government nor the current BJP government has taken any significant steps to address the demands of Kashmir’s minority community,” he added.

Multi-billion dollar rehab package

In November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a package worth 800 billion rupees (U.S. $11.7 billion) for Jammu and Kashmir, which included money earmarked for the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits.

But members of the minority group say the government needs to do more.

“Our primary demand is of justice. Punish the killers of Kashmiri Pandits as only this can restore our confidence to go back. All steps for rehabilitation and relief will fall flat without it,” Pandit Rashneek Kher told reporters at last month’s rally in the Indian capital.

“The government should recognize it as genocide, an ethnic cleansing, and seriously order a probe into it,” another protester, Vijay Tikku, said.

“Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits was one of BJP’s election manifestos, but since coming to power it has turned a deaf ear to our issues,” Roshan Kumar, a 25-year-old Pandit who runs an electronics store in Delhi, told BenarNews.

BJP member R.P. Singh said his government was taking all possible steps toward rehabilitating Pandits.

“The Prime Minister has already allocated funds for the relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. But the process will take time,” he said while trying to pacify the protesters.

During a news show on NDTV on Jan. 19, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had said: “The onus lies with them (Pandits) to return. No one is going to go to them with a begging bowl.”

However, a day later, he clarified that he did not intend to hurt the sentiments of Kashmiri Pandits, who are an “essential component of the pluralistic ethos of Kashmir.”

“It is sad that the Kashmiri Pandits had to leave their homes and hearths in 1990. I always wanted them to return but, at the same time, we can’t force them to return,” Abdullah said at a gathering in Jammu city.

‘No danger from separatists’

Kashmir separatist groups, too, said they would be happy to have the Pandits return to the state and that the minority group should not fear them.

“We are fighting for Kashmir’s freedom. That is our only agenda. The return of Pandits has nothing to do with our fight,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, an amalgam of 32 Kashmiri separatist groups, told BenarNews.

Farooq said that more than 3,000 Kashmiri Pandits were already living in the state and his group had been in constant touch with them to reassure them of their safety.

“I can assure the Pandits they are safe here. And if they want I am even willing to help them safely resettle in Kashmir,” Farooq said. (Benarnews)

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Dalai Lama says that India and China have great potential

The spiritual leader feels that both the countries are doing compassionate works

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Dalai Lama talks about India and China
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai says that India and China can work together. VOA

New Delhi, Nov 19

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have “great potential” and they could work together at a “practical level”.

“I think, a great potential… India and China combined are doing more compassionate work… At a practical level also. Imagine two billion people working together,” he told reporters here after inaugurating Smile Foundation’s initiative, The World of Children.

The spiritual leader, who has lived in India in self-imposed exile since 1959, said neither country had the “ability to destroy the other”.

“Whether you like it or not, you have to live side by side,” he said.

Underlining the ancient spiritual connection between the two countries, he said Chinese Buddhist Hsuan Tsang visited Nalanda (now in Bihar) and brought Nalanda Buddhist traditions to China.

“All thinkers of Nalanda are Indian. So Nalanda’s tradition is India’s tradition,” he said.

The Nalanda traditions had turned Tibetans, who were warriors, into more compassionate, peaceful and non-violent nation, he said.

“So sometimes in Delhi, teasing my Indian friend, (I say) if Tibet still remained in the previous way of life, like Mongols, Chinese invasion may not have taken place,” the Dalai Lama said in a lighter vein.

He said nobody in the world wanted violence but it was happening “because our minds are dominated by destructive emotions due to short-sightedness”.

“Nobody wants problems. Yet, many problems are our own creation.”

The Dalai Lama said the existing modern education was oriented to material values. India can take lead in improving the education system by combining modern education with ancient knowledge, he said. (IANS)

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Manushi Chhillar from India Wins the Miss World 2017 Title

India's Manushi Chillar won the coveted Miss World 2017 pageant here, 16 years after Priyanka Chopra won the title in 2000.

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Miss World
Manushi Chhillar has been crowned as Miss World 2017. Instagram #ManushiChhillar

China, November 19: India’s Manushi Chhillar won the coveted Miss World 2017 pageant, 16 years after Priyanka Chopra won the title in 2000.

Chhillar competed against 108 contestants from various countries at a glittering event held at Sanya City Arena here.

Miss World 2016 winner Puerto Rico’s Stephanie Del Valle gave away the coveted crown to the winner.

Chhillar, who is from Haryana, had earlier this year won the Femina Miss India 2017.

Miss world
Anti Ageing was the official skin care expert for Manushi Chhillar at the Miss World 2017 pageant. Instagram #ManushiChhillar

India, England, France, Kenya and Mexico grabbed the top five spots at the peagant.

Manushi, born to doctor parents, studied in St. Thomas School in New Delhi and Bhagat Phool Singh Government Medical College for Women in Sonepat.

Her entire family including brother and sister were present and they looked excited watching Manushi grabbing top five spot.

As many as 108 beauty queens from different parts of the world participated in the prestigious pageant. (IANS)

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Manoj Bajpayee is an amazing actor and a team player on set: Sidharth Malhotra

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

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Actor Sidharth Malhotra
Actor Sidharth Malhotra. Wikimedia Commons

November 7, 2017: Actor Sidharth Malhotra, who will be seen sharing screen space with Manoj Bajpayee in “Aiyaary”, says the National Award winning actor is amazing and a team player.

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

A user asked the “Student Of The Year” actor about his experience working with Manoj in “Aiyaary”.

Sidharth replied: “He’s an amazing actor and a team player on set.”

“Aiyaary”, set in Delhi, London and Kashmir, revolves around two strong-minded Army officers having completely different views, yet right in their own ways. It is a real-life story based on the relationship between a mentor and a protege.

Presented by Plan C and Jayantilal Gada (Pen), the project is produced by Shital Bhatia, Dhaval Jayantilal Gada, Motion Picture Capital.

When asked about the development of the film, Sidharth replied: “Awesome. Excited to show it in a few months.”

Sidharth, 32, also described his “Brothers” co-star Akshay Kumar as his “brother from another mother.”(IANS)