Letter to Chairperson-Rapporteur

Mr. Asbjorn Eide, Chairperson-Rapporteur, Working Group on Minorities, 19th Session, UN Human Rights Commission, Geneva, August 04, 2005:

Dear Mr. Eide, Our NGO (Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum affiliated to CONGO) has carefully studied the Report of the Working Group on Minorities on its tenth session held in Geneva from 1 – 5 March 2004 on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. The report (E/CN.4/Sub.2004/29) is before the 57th session of the sub-commission for consideration.

We fully appreciate the content and scope of the report, which reflects your profound study and understanding of the problems of minority groups in different parts of the world. We are aware that their problems are complex and baffling and a high degree of patience and vision are needed to understand their import and impact.

It is obvious that given the dimensions of the problem, some of its facets could escape your searching eye just because you can deal only with the generalities in order to draw inferences.

However, a particular case towards which I venture to draw your attention is one with which you are very well acquainted. It is of the Pandits (Hindus) of Kashmir, a peculiar religious minority that you once, in the course of your reports on minorities, termed, and very rightly, as a classical example of “Reverse Minority”.

We need not remind you of the atrocities perpetrated by Kashmir theo-fascists since the beginning of the armed insurgency in early 1990. You are no stranger to their acts of cannibalism if I help you recall the tragic slaughtering of Hans Ostro, the Norwegian tourist in Kashmir in 1996, just because he was of Jewish faith. This inhuman act of taking the life of an innocent person had caused anguish to the entire body of the sub-commission, which you were chairing and that time and resulted in the issuance of a statement from the chairperson condemning the brutal act.

Having said that, we would have highly appreciated if an adequate mention of the victimization of the Pandit “reverse minority” by the religious entrepreneurs in the Indian part of Kashmir had occurred in your report under reference at a few relevant places like the paragraphs on ‘Religious intolerance’ (page 6/13), or ‘Forced displacement’ (p. 6/17). Likewise we would have highly appreciated if you had made a mention of them under ‘Other minorities’ in Asian region (p. 8/23) along with the Dalits or the religious/ethnic minorities of Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The Pandits have suffered a selective killing of nearly a thousand of their innocent members in early 1990 ( which has been well documented) by the theo-fascists, extirpation from their homeland; loot, arson and vandalizing of their properties and forced exodus and till date 16 years of life as Internally Displaced Persons in different parts of the Indian Union.

Mr. Chairperson, we are convinced that while understanding and analysing the problems of a “reverse minority” like the Kashmiri Pandits, you give importance to the rights of the members of a minority as human beings and not as potent or impotent voting blocks. Unfortunately, the local governments have always looked at this minority through the latter prism.

Leave alone providing them succour according to the norms prescribed for international refugees, the Pandits have been denied even the nomenclature of IDPs as stipulated by the UNHRC and the Working Group on IDPs. This has been conceded by Mr. Francis Deng, Secretary General’s Special Representative on IDPs in his very brief report on Kashmiri Pandits. In stead, they continue to be called “Migrants” even by an august body like the Indian National Human Rights Commission. This is rubbing salt into their wounds.

Mr. Chairperson-Rapporteur, we regrettably bring to your notice that as a result of some reconciliatory gestures by one of the separatist groups of the majority community in Kashmir, some Pandit representatives proceeded to Srinagar around mid-July for reconciliation talks. No sooner had the one-day talks ended than four armed groups of militants issued a statement warning the Pandits against any move of returning to their places of origin in Kashmir valley. Copies of press clippings in this context are annexed. Handing of threats to life is violation of the first and the foremost of human rights viz. the right to life.

We, therefore, approach you with the request that while presenting your report under consideration to the 57th session of the Sub-Commission, you may kindly make a reference to the Kashmiri Pandit IDPs as a religious minority discriminated against and victimised on the basis of religion. You could also recommend that any coercive measure against the IDPs in the question of their return to their place of origin is tantamount to denial of the right of freedom of movement. Kashmiri Pandit IDPs need to be incorporated into the Reports of the Working Group as well as that of the Rapporteur in his formal reports to the Commission and the Sub-Commission in future. With regards, Kashinath Pandita, General Secretary.

Copy to: 1. High Commissioner Human Rights Commission; 2.Chairperson, 57th session of the Sub-Commission; 3. H.E. The Prime Minister of India

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