FACT: FOUNDATION AGAINST CONTINUING TERRORISM
“in Kashmir, the Hindus had all the monopoly. Now if the Muslim demands are acceded to, the Hindus will be wiped out again.”, wrote Sri Aurobindo in 1940. How prophetic ! Do you know the FACTS about Kashmir? Over 4 lakh Kashmiri Pandits have been forced to flee their homeland. Many Pandit men, women and children have been brutally murdered. About 70,000 languish in makeshift refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi. Scores of temples in Kashmir have been desecrated, destroyed, looted, More than 900 educational institutions have been attacked by terrorists. Properties of Pandits have been vandalised, businesses destroyed or taken over, even hospitals have not been spared. Did you know that this huge human tragedy is taking place in Free India? Kashmir was known as “Sharda Peeth” , the abode of learning. Now the Pandits, the original inhabitants, have been forced to flee. 5000 years of civilization are at stake.
THE ROLE OF PAKISTAN IN KASHMIRI TERROR is clear: terrorism in Kashmir is an ideological struggle with specific fundamentalist and communal Agenda. Terrorist violence aims at the disengagement of the state of Jammu and Kashmir from India and its annexation to Pakistan. It is a continuation of the Islamic fundamentalist struggle. The major dimension of terrorist violence in Kashmir is the terrorists’ commitment to the extermination and subjugation of the Hindus in the state, because Hindus do not subscribe to the idea of separation from India, nor will they allow governance by the tenets of Islam. Kashmiri Pandits have always been in the forefront of the struggle against secessionism, communalism and fundamentalism. Hence this peace loving minority with a progressive outlook became the main victim of terrorist violence
The strategies involved in the terrorists’ operation against the Hindus in Kashmir are simple: the extermination of Hindus, that is Subjecting Hindus to brutal torture, to instil fear among them in order to achieve their submission. To engineer a forced mass exodus of Hindus from the land of their ancestors by way of issuing threatening letters, kidnappings and torture deaths on non-compliance of the terrorists’ dictates and ensure the destruction of the secular and pluralistic character of Kashmiri Society. Attacks, molestations, kidnappings, gang rapes of the women folk of the Hindu Pandits to instil fear and humiliation. Destruction and burning of residential houses of the Hindus who have been compelled to abandon their homes. Looting of their properties and appropriation of their business establishments are undertaken to ensure that they do not return. Attachment of the ancestral and landed property of Pandits Destruction of the social and religious institutions of the Hindus by the desecration and destruction of their places of worship. Appropriation of the property of the Hindu shrines.
BURNING BOOKS, LOOTING OF CULTURE is also a very important part of the plan. Kashmir was the crucible of Knowledge, Spirituality, a hallowed centre of learning and the cradle of Shivaism. Kashmiri Pandits excelled in philosophy, aesthetics, poetics, sculpture, architecture, mathematics, astronomy and astrology. Sanskrit was studied, propagated and spoken by women and men. Scholars and saints such as Kalhan, Jonraj, Srivar, Abhinavgupta, Somanand, Utpaldev, Somdev and Kshemendra created here an intellectual centre of unrivalled repute. Fundamentalism and terrorism have been ruthless in their assault on “Sharda Peeth”, zealous in ravaging its heritage, and consistent only in bloodthirsty intolerance. The destruction of Hindu places of worship, forced conversions of Pandits and death and ignominy to those who resisted, were accompanied by a savage assault on literary activity. This process has been going on since centuries.
Commencing 1998, the assault on learning began afresh. How else to erase 5000 years of civilization? The Jammaat-i-Islami, a fundamentalist organisation, launched a campaign to ransack libraries in the educational institutions and flared ban on books which did not correspond to their ideas about man, world and God. The Kashmir university funded by the University Grants Commission and headed by the Governor of the state was denuded of two thousand books including the works of Milton, G.B. Shaw, Shakespeare, H.G. Wells and tomes on Hindu Philosophy. Book-shops were looted in broad daylight at Batamaloo, Srinagar. The library of the Information Centre run by Government of India was looted and set on fire.
As a correspondent covering India for more than 20 years, I have witnessed the terrible damage that terrorism in Kashmir has inflicted upon people’s lives, their family, their culture, the very fabric of society, not only of the Kashmiri Pandits, but also of the Muslims of the Valley, who after all, are the victims too of Pakistan’s bloody designs. Hence, with two journalist friends, we started a Foundation: FACT – Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism. The first task of FACT has been to mount an exhibition on terrorism, focussing on the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, so that the people of India, who do not suffer directly from terrorism understand, what it does to others. This exhibition opened in Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, on 18th of this month and was a great success. It was inaugurated by the acting US ambassador, Robert O Blake, and Mr Bitta, Chairman All India Anti Terrorist Front. More than 25.000 people visited the exhibition till its closing day, on 23rd July. Amongst them; L.K. Advani, Deputy PM, Justice Anand, Chairman National Human Rights Commission, Dr Karan Singh, MM Joshi… It was covered by most English and Hindi national newspapers and reported on by Zee News, Star News, Sahara, DD1, ANI, DD2 and NDTV.
We had also invited Sonia Gandhi, since she has recently emphasized that Pakistan should stop cross border terrorism and because she had a (partly) Kashmiri Pandit husband, who was murdered by terrorists. Unfortunately, Mrs Gandhi declined; and it seems even, according to “inside” sources, that she advised her people to “keep away from the exhibition”. Mr Vajpayee, also invited, did not bother to appear, even after the massacre of the Vaishno Devi pilgrims and the attack on the army camp in Jammu. It would have been good of him to make a gesture towards the community of the Kashmiri Pandits, who after all are Indian citizens and have been criminally wronged.
Thus, we need your support, you the ordinary Indians of India and abroad, and we invite all of you, whatever your class, caste, religion, or ethnic origin, to support witness this wonderful exhibition, a first in the world. It will be next in Bangalore in August, then on to Mumbai. Later, we would like this exhibition to travel to the United States, a country which has recently suffered from terrorism and is leading an unprecedented (and often lonely) war on global terrorism. The American people should understand what India has been going through in the last fifty years. Then on to England, the home of so many Indians, to France, the seat of the Unesco, and Switzerland, where the UN Human Rights commission sits.