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  • Writer's pictureMohinder Gulati

The Power of Justice: Withering or Ennobling

Kashmir has been in the news for more than seven decades since India’s independence but Kashmiri Hindus rarely so. Their heart-wrenching sufferings from ethnic cleansing three decades ago and being forced to become refugees in their own country, did not stir the conscience of the nation or of the international community. Lonely voices of activists were lost in the cacophony of Indian public discourse until a few months ago when the Kashmir Files movie brought the genocide of the Kashmiri Hindus into the open. It seared the Indian psyche. Millions were dumbfounded, distraught, and even visibly angered by the barbarity committed by Islamic terrorists three decades ago in India: an ostensibly secular nation.

But did it have any effect on the public institutions to provide restorative justice to the Kashmiri Hindus? Going by the Supreme Court’s recent refusal (SC Refusal) to open the cases, and kicking the can down the road to the executive – who have stonewalled it in the first place – does not give any hope that justice will be delivered. However, the Washington DC-based International Commission for Human Rights and Religious Freedom (ICHRRF) held an open hearing to investigate the matter. They verified testimonies provided under oath by survivors and witnesses of events in Kashmir of 1990s, and the submitted evidence. The bone chilling testimonies present the description of systematic failure of the government, betrayal by neighbors, and terrorist violence that culminated into resurfacing of the despicable slogan “Ralliv, Challiv, ya Galliv (Convert to Islam, Flee, or Perish)” their ancestors had faced centuries ago when Islam conquered Kashmir. The Commission’s report, with the recorded statements of victims, can be accessed at International Commission on Human Rights and Religious Freedom: Hearing on Kashmiri Hindu Genocide.

The Commission found that:

1. The Muslim religious and political leadership in Kashmir abetted and engaged in a deliberate campaign using political, legislative, and violent means to cleanse the Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir.

2. The Central government of the time failed to maintain law and order, or provide safety for the Kashmiri Hindus because of political considerations.

3. The Kashmiri Muslims – the overwhelming majority in Kashmir Valley – have controlled all levers of power for decades but continue to project themselves as an oppressed ‘minority’ of India.

4. The non-questioning media of the time had helped the perpetrators of the genocide seem like the victims.

5. The Kashmiri Hindus’ pleas for justice have remained unheard.

The genocide of the Kashmiri Hindus cannot be denied. Attempts to do so amount to complicity in the crime. Justice has been delayed for long, but it must not be denied to them. Doing so brings great odium on India’s claim to be a secular and democratic country and one where the rule of law is observed in spirit, if not in the letter of the law. Public pressure, peaceful and sustained, must be brought to bear on the Government of India, Parliament and the justice system. The Commission recommends that, at the very least, the Government of India must:

1. Bring to justice, within one year, the main person(s) accused of murder, or rape of Kashmiri Hindus, and destruction of Hindu temples, that happened from 1985 to 1995.

2. Ensure the physical security of those Kashmiri Hindus who choose to return to Kashmir and live there.

3. Financially compensate family members of Kashmiri Hindus who lost their lives because of Islamic terrorism in Kashmir from 1985 to 1995.

4. Restore properties, temples and lands that were usurped, encroached on, or sold under duress, to the rightful owners or legally recognized bodies.

5. Appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court to investigate the exodus of the Kashmiri Hindus and the complicity of those who facilitated this exodus and publish its findings within one year.

Allowing the genocide of the Kashmiri Hindus to be swept under the rug puts to question India’s claim of being a secular and democratic country which is committed to the rule of law. Such laxity and indifference also create grave perils of similar genocides being repeated in other parts of India. This cannot be allowed to happen. The power of justice is ennobling but it must be delivered. Only then will India become a mature and functional democracy.

Contributed by GHTN Volunteer Mr Sidarth Ambardar

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