The Kashmiri Hindu Woman Who Forcefully Countered The Islamist Narrative At A Hearing On Kashmir In The US

by Yaajnaseni - Nov 15, 2019 03:37 PM +05:30 IST
 The Kashmiri Hindu Woman Who Forcefully Countered The Islamist Narrative At A Hearing On Kashmir In The USSunanda Vashisht at a hearing by Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to examine the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir 

Political commentator and columnist Sunanda Vashisht’s piercing testimony at a hearing by Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to examine the human rights situation in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in India is making the rounds all over social media.

Vashisht is herself is a Kashmiri Hindu and a victim the ethnic cleansing by radical Islamists in Kashmir.

Vashisht started by quoting Tom Lantos, a Hungarian-born holocaust survivor after whom the commission is named.

“In July 2003, he said, Indians and Jews share a passionate commitment for respect to others, the rule of law and for the (persecution at hands of) mindless, vicious, fanatic radical Islamist terrorism.”

Vashisht continued, “I am also reminded today of the American journalist Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and beheaded by Pakistani terrorists. His last words, ‘my father is a Jewish, my mother is a Jewish, I am a Jewish.’

“Honourable members, I speak before you the last words of Daniel Pearl in my own words. My father is a Kashmiri Hindu, my mother is a Kashmiri Hindu and I am a Kashmiri Hindu, and our homes and lives in Kashmir were destroyed by radical Islamic terrorism.”

It is important to note that Vashisht also identified herself as a ‘Kashmiri Hindu’ and not specifically Kashmiri Pandit.

This is significant as it brings to light the continuity and connection between historical Hindu persecution at the hands of Islamic invaders which spanned the whole subcontinent and the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus in the 1990s.

The international press often suppresses this link and the use of the word ‘Kashmiri Pundit’ instead of Hindus facilitates minimisation of the extent and harm, all the while hiding the reality of the Hindu-hatred that finds ample space not only in terrorist-proxies funded by Pakistan but also their mainstream leaders.

Vashisht, true to the victim’s voices, is unapologetic and bold in her speech.

“As I begin to speak, I am choked by the thoughts of those voices whom I represent here because their voices were extinguished in the most brutal fashion. I am a member of the minority Hindu community of Kashmir, victim of the worst ethnic cleansing witnessed in Independent India.”

“I speak here today because I am a survivor. An innocent young woman, a lab assistant in a school wasn’t as lucky as I was. She was abducted, blindfolded, gang-raped and cut into two halves by a mechanical saw while she was still alive. Her name was Girija Tikoo. Her only crime: her faith. I am her voice today.”

Vashisht also doesn’t shy away from exposing the true nature of radical Islam, which isn’t about a few criminal-minded terrorists, but a dangerous violent ideology that infects common people in the name of religion who become participants in those crimes.

“I am also the voice of young Kashmiri Hindu engineer who was hunted by terrorists, again, for his faith. When terrorists arrived, he hid in a rice container in his attic. He had been alive today if his location wasn’t disclosed to the terrorists by his own neighbours. Neighbours that he trusted, neighbours that we trusted.”

“The terrorists shot him through the container and then forced his wife to eat the blood-soaked rice. His name was B K Ganju. His crime: his faith. I speak for him today. I could go and on.”

“We have seen ISIS (Islamic State) level of brutalities in Kashmir, thirty years before the West was introduced to the brutalities of the radical Islamist terror. I am glad these hearings are happening today, because when my family and I lost our homes, our livelihood and our way of life. the world remained silent.”

“Where were the advocates of human rights when my rights were taken away? Where were they on the night of 19th January 1990 when there were voices blaring from all mosques in Kashmir that they wanted Kashmir with Hindu women but without Hindu men?”

This question of Vashisht on Kashmiri women relates to the history of the spread of Islam in the Indian subcontinent where the Islamic invaders had a policy of killing all the men, capturing women and children, enslaving them, and forcibly converting to them to Islam. This policy had clear demographic goals.

Demographic goals have been a part of Islamic history since its inception; a quick conversion, allowing an unlimited number of sex-slaves, etc., have been a part of the strategy.

Professor K S Lal notes that not just Mughal rulers in their war-campaigns, but even nobles of lesser note indulged in reckless enslavement throughout. This implies that the abduction of Hindu women and using them as sex-slaves was not an exceptional occurrence during wars but commonplace events.

Vashisht then recounts her own story of horror and questions the self-proclaimed proponents of human rights for their silence on the fate of Hindus in Kashmir.

“Where were the saviours of humanity when my feeble old grandfather stood with two kitchen knives and an old rusted axe ready to kill my mother and I in order to save us from the much worse fate that awaited us if we landed in the hands of terrorists on the same fateful night.”

“My people were given three choices: flee, convert, or die. Around 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus fled right after that night of horror. Those who didn’t were killed.”

“Today, thirty years later, I am still not welcome in my home in Kashmir. I am not allowed to follow my faith without fear. My house in Kashmir is illegally occupied as are those of countless others in my community. Those not occupied, have been ransacked and burnt down.”

“Thousands of our temples have been vandalised, desecrated and lie in ruins. Every effort has been made to eradicate Hinduism in Kashmir. Today, Kashmir is the home to only one religion. This is by design and in the ultimate violation of human rights.”

“Diversity, and acceptance of different views, is not the norm in today’s Kashmir. It is not just Hindus that have been ethnically cleansed. Sikhs have been massacred. A fatwa was announced against Christian schools of Kashmir accusing them of luring Muslims to Christianity.

“What human rights are we talking about when all minorities have either been driven out or silenced and Islamist state of Kashmir where other religions are not welcome and tolerance of any other viewpoint is absent is no citadel of human rights.”

“This is the society being created in Kashmir today by those who are talking about human rights.”

It is important to note that Vashisht in her statement, unlike most of the discourse on Kashmiri Hindus, whatever little there is, doesn’t take the focus to the Pakistani state but to the radical Islamist ideology that promotes terror against non-Muslims all across the world.

In this, Vashisht situates the experience of Kashmiri Hindus in its proper context of Hindu persecution, instead of falsely characterising the problem as merely a modern political conflict over territory, where one party --- Pakistan --- is a rogue state.

“Terrorism, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate opponent of human rights. Human rights cannot and should not take precedence over human life. Everyone who stands for freedom, liberty and right to life should worry about radicalisation that fuels terror.”

“A 65-year-old shopkeeper Ghulam Mohammad Mir gets killed by the terrorists because he opened his shop to earn his livelihood. Truck drivers and apple-traders are shot dead by terrorists for simply wanting to earn their livelihood.

“The simple act of earning a livelihood is prohibited in Kashmir today because that will show that Kashmir is moving towards normalcy.”

“I ask you, who are these people in Kashmir today who fear normalcy? Who are these people who talk about human rights but fear free movement, free thought and right to earn livelihood?”

“Abrogation of Article 370 that has raised so much concern is actually a restoration of human rights. The Indian constitution that is modelled on the US constitution is the most liberal document in the world. That constitution was not applicable to Jammu & Kashmir in totality as long as Article 370 was in force.”

“After the abrogation of Article 370, the people of Jammu and Ladakh have been liberated from the tyranny of being half-citizens in their own country.”

“Child marriage which was responsible for child-trafficking and sex-trafficking has been made illegal in Kashmir. Kashmiri women and LGBTQ community in Kashmir has been given the same rights as other Indian citizens.”

“As a mother, it is very important for me that child marriage has now been outlawed in Kashmir. Today, I am delighted that Kashmiris have the same right as Indian citizens.”

“If something as serious as women’s rights to own property and the right of LGBTQ community among others to choose has been established by abrogation of Article 370. Then it is safe to assume that restoration of the Internet in a few remaining districts of Kashmir is not too far away.”

“I am a proud daughter of Kashmir, I am a proud legatee of India’s proud composite civilisation. Terrorism has uprooted me and snatched my home from me. I hope my human rights are restored too some day and so of my community. Thank you.”

Prior to the hearing, Vashisht had also criticised the selection of the witnesses as biased, on Twitter.

“There is not one sympathetic voice to India in this carefully chosen panel of witnesses. This is going to be another 'India bashing' exercise. India just has to develop some thick skin and look away because these hearings are all rigged.” she had tweeted on 13 November.

“It is all about lobbying and which side is donating to the politicians more. No prizes for guessing who is paying more. If Indian-American donors. substantially increase their donations, you will never even hear the K word on capitol hill," she has said in another tweet.

A 25-year-old IIT alumna with deep interest in society, culture and politics, she describes herself as a humble seeker of Sanatana wisdom that has graced Bharatvarsha in different ways, forms and languages. Follow her @yaajnaseni

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