After independence, the ruling elite in Kashmir not only marginalized Kashmiri Hindus but systematically excluded them from one or more of the four basic areas of life: economic, cultural, political and social. The ongoing insurgency in Kashmir is aimed to convert Kashmir valley into a complete Muslim land. Hindus of Kashmir became the direct victims of this onslaught; they were killed, raped, their property looted, and temples destroyed. To save their lives and honor, they were forced to abandon their homes and hearths. For the Hindus of Kashmir, a host of problems, to say the least, have erupted with this mass exodus from the valley. People are living as refugees in their own country. It has already been eighteen years of exile from their homeland. Young men and women are trying to strike bonds in their new environment. The aging generation is taking solace in nostalgia. The children who were infants at the time of exodus have grown up to be teenagers now. All this is compounded by the fact that there is no hope of an honorable return in sight as per the present conditions. We need not forget that we are responsible at this stage to our future generations. There is a dire need to preserve and protect this minority community and help them save their culture and identity while in exile. Under the present circumstances it is necessary to talk about the role that Indian citizens can play in ensuring the survival of minority Hindu community of Kashmir.
To make sure that our community survives these unfortunate times, it is an initiative taken by the Panun Kashmir Movement (PKM) to give a fresh momentum to the political movement of the Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus. The initiative comes in the form of a political pilgrimage named SANKALP-YAATRA. In early 1990s, when our community hit the headlines, for a while a wave of curiosity to find out more about it was generated and then it slowly disappeared. The idea behind this Yatra is to inform non-Kashmiri Indians about the intractable and longstanding problem of Kashmir. The Yatra organizers believe that by improving the information level of people about the problem of Kashmiri Hindus, it will increase the support of their Indian brethren in their fight for survival.
The SANKALP YATRA commenced on November 11th, 2007 from Srinagar Kashmir. The State government did its best to put hurdles but the organizers were determined to do it and the delegates reached Srinagar a day early, some by-air and some by road. The Yatra started from the premises of Sheetalnath Temple.
All participants kissed its sacred ground three times and took a handful of its sacred earth with them. All participants paid Shradanjali to the Samadhi of the martyrs by offering them floral tributes. Passions ran high while seeing the appalling conditions of the Sheetalnath temple. But that is the story of everything Hindu in Kashmir. The Yatra continued to Hanuman Mandir- on the banks of Vitasta, Zeethyar Temple, and Durganag temple. All the Yatra participants took an oath (SANKALP) at Zeethyar to continue the struggle till we meet success.
Next day, November 12th, the Yatra participants went to the UN office at Gupkar Road and presented a memorandum. Later that day a press conference was held at Hotel Welcome, Boulevard Road, Srinagar where the president of PKM, Shri Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo held Kashmiri Muslims, State government and the GOI equally responsible for conditions in J&K State and particularly for the plight of Kashmiri Hindus. The Yatra participants left for Jammu the next day.
On behalf of the Hindu Community of Jammu, ASKPC welcomed the Yatra delegates on their arrival in Jammu, at the Geeta Bhawan.
From November 14th till November 24th , the Yatra participants visited all the refugee camps in Jammu. PKM team has been visiting the refugee camps in Jammu to involve the community members in this Yatra. The Yatra now, in its second phase left Jammu on November 25th 2007. It shall cover 41 places in the nine States and two Union Territories of India. The Yatra will conclude at Jammu in the month of December 2007.
Sankalp Yatra found its roots in Sankalp Divas, which is observed every year on September 25. On this day in 1991, for the first time a public rally was organized on the banks of Ranbir Canal at Rajinder Park, Jammu where Kashmiri Pandits took an oath (publicly) to continue the struggle for our reestablishment in Kashmir. Accordingly, the pilgrimage has also been named as Sankalp Yatra. The Yatra shall comprise the following 4 stages- i) Srinagar to Jammu, ii) Gandhinagar, Jammu to Gandhinagar, Gujarat, iii) Sabarmati, Ahemdabad to Ravi, Pathankot via Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and iv) Lakhanpur to Rajinder Park, Jammu.
Sankalp Yaatra aims to achieve the following:
a) To rekindle the homeland thought process and struggle in the community and give a fresh momentum to the political movement of the Kashmiri Pandits.
b) To bring to the fore, yet again, the issues about the ethnic cleansing and exodus of the community at national level in a forceful and practical manner by conducting a journey of about 7,000 km.
c) To make mass awareness about the human rights violations and issues pertaining to the genocidal action against the Pandits and the other minorities of the Jammu and Kashmir State.
d) To involve the youth in the political struggle of the community by making them a part of the two-month long Yatra and train them in a consistent and coordinated manner.
e) To reclaim the right on the territory of Kashmir as indigenous people of Kashmir.
During this Yatra, the participants will draw publics attention to following four issues:
a) Kashmir issue and terrorism,
b) Exodus and displacement of Kashmiri Pandits and other minorities of Kashmir and their present status,
c) Human rights situation of minorities in Jammu & Kashmir State, and
d) Demand of Homeland in Kashmir.
During the course of this Yatra, the participants will be visiting the birth-places (Janamabhumi) and/or work-places (Karmabhumi) of four great political personalities of India, who are: Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. B.R Ambedkar, Dr. K.B.Hedgewar and Lokmanya Tilak. The thinking and action on behalf of these historical characters have been instrumental in founding the political edifice of India over the last one hundred years.
In order to seek blessings from the revered gods and the gurus for the success of the political pilgrimage, the participants shall also have a darshan of four important religious shrines i.e. Harmandir-Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, Durgiana Peeth-Amritsar, Akshardham-Ahemdabad and Hazoor Sahib-Nanded, Maharashtra.
The Yatra participants shall, during its two-month long journey period, meet with political and community leaders at various places throughout its course. The participants will carry with them material in the shape of books, folders and photographs depicting the plight of Kashmiri Hindus and their demand. Meeting with the leaders and showcasing their struggle along the way would ensure that the regional and national media highlights their concerns to educate the public about our plight.
Here is how you can help:
The community members in India can help by their sheer participation, by arranging meetings with local community and political leaders along the route of the Yatra and/or by providing time and financial help to organize this Yatra.
The overseas community members are requested to wholeheartedly support this Yatra by providing guidance, advise and monitory help to pull this mega project.
To get further information about the Yatra, its organizers (Upinder Kaul, General Secretary and Ashwani Chrangoo, president) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any contributions should be mailed to 65-D, Patoli Mangotrian, Janipur, Jammu-Tawi 180007, India. Checks should be written specifically for Sankalp Yatra. During the Yatra, the organizing team will constantly keep the community informed about its progress and after its conclusion; a follow-up summary along with all financial details will be shared with the community.
Being the indigenous people of the Kashmir valley, Kashmiri Hindus have an inalienable right on Kashmir and we wish to exercise our right to live and grow in Kashmir not on the basis of the goodwill of the Muslims of Kashmir, but as our fundamental right.
The story of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus is one long struggle against the forces of evil, which have wanted to destroy their culture and identity, stretching over hundreds of years. The one thing that has kept them going so long is their invisible faith in their spirituality, which they need now more than ever to cross their present calamity, which is the greatest they have ever had.
The Yatra organizers can use all the help they can get. Your participation and involvement is necessary. Do it for yourself and for the coming generations before we become extinct as a community.
*Sanjay Kaul is a Professional Civil Engineer, presently working for the Department of Transportation, Boston. USA. Mr. Kaul is a life member of Kashmiri Overseas Association and has served as its President for two terms.
Mr. Kaul is currently serving as the Governing Council member of Vishva Hindu Parishad of America. His responsibilities include coordinating Kashmir Task Force, planning of Hindu Mandir Executives Conference, and Dharam Prasarn Yatra. Mr. Kaul has made presentations to Indian leaders, GOI representatives, and international leaders, representing the views and aspirations of Kashmiri Hindus.