International Teleconference on Kashmir

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International Teleconference on Kashmir
Emphasised the creation of a legitimate political and physical space in Kashmir for Kashmiri Hindus
he forced exodus of more than 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus from their homes in Kashmir and their continued separation from their homeland remains a blot on free society and a challenging human rights issue. The Shehjar Publication organized an International teleconference on August 13th to discuss Kashmir today and analyze the situation for the Kashmiri Hindu community in the context of South Asia current affairs. A distinguished panel of speakers presented their views and analyses and suggested recommendations to deal with the crisis. Participants from countries all over the world including USA, Canada, UK, India, China, Australia and U.A.E logged in for the event. This teleconference had the objective of allowing a people (the Kashmiri Hindu community) who have a story to tell to have an avenue to do so. The speakers were all of stature and their words commanded interest. The conference was moderated by Ankit Monga, founding member & President of Kashmir Hindu Foundation, Inc. and Arun Koul, Editor of Shehjar, the single-most widely read web-magazine on Kashmir.

Welcome by Arun Koul

Re-connecting with Kashmir was the underlying theme of the teleconference. Regarding this theme, Shehjar stated, “After more than 20 years of exodus, the Kashmiri Hindu community may consider that it is at Point Zero. That is not all bad because it gives the community an opportunity to start anew with a fresh approach. There would not be a baggage of past losses. The community could review where it stands today and re-connect with Kashmir afresh: in a new engagement, with a clear strategy, on a visible path”. Many of the speakers from several organizations drew on their personal, professional and social-work experiences to explain ways for Kashmiri Hindus to individually remain connected with Kashmir as well as the need to find a collective resolution that will help the entire community to re-establish a physical presence in the valley.Shehjar is reproducing below the views presented by the speakers during the International Tele-Conference.

Please follow up discussion on this conference by reading Shehjar’snote to its readers at the end of this article.

Dr. Richard Benkin, Chicago based human rights activist, Chair and Co-founder of Human Rights advisory Council to US Congressman made a case for political advocacy to bring the matter to the immediate attention of powers that may be. He passionately argued against the human rights violations that have been systematically perpetrated on the Kashmiri
Pandit community since 1989. “It is a matter of human rights pure and simple and stopping the atrocities is in the interest of everyone as it is the result of International Islamic Jihad. What is important is saving the victims. I believe that you have to target the US first for two reasons, the first that you will get nowhere with the Indian Government, will have less success with the UN, Amnesty International or other International bodies and second no other country will take up your cause other than the people of this great nation.”

He gave vivid examples of how gross abuses of basic human rights have been carried out by fundamentalist Muslims in Bangladesh and how vital it is for the global community to send out a strong message against this. It is important, therefore, to recognize the identity and nature of the enemy that faces the Kashmiri Pandit community", he said.

Dr. Richard Benkin (Intro by Ankit Monga)

Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s taped statement given excusively to Shehjar on Article 370 was played to the audience that explained the need and method to deal with this legal provision, which creates room for separatists and excludes the natives.

Subramanian Swamy on Article 370

The President of the Overseas Friends of the BJP, Mr. Harish Dhruv and Director of the Hindu American Foundation Mr. Samir Kalra explained how the struggles of the community were part of a larger struggle and the ongoing actions of their organizations towards a solution. Samir asked for support of the Kashmiri Hindu community so that the Resolution 387 introduced by congressman Frank Pallone condemning extremist violence, lack of religious freedom, and human rights violations against Kashmiri Pandits is passed in the United States Congress.

Harish Dhruv (Intro-Ankit Monga) 

Samir Kalra (Intro by Ankit Monga)

Kartikeya Tanna Youth Director, KHF and an Attorney practicing law in India and New York, took forward from where Dr. Swamy left and appealed to the global Kashmiri Hindu community to view positive developments like Fai's arrest, deferral of US military aid to Pakistan, the election of a Kashmiri Pandit woman in Wusan village and the Resolution by Rep. Frank Palone as an incentive to take the lead in addressing concerns on instances of human rights violations, thereby commencing an honest process in rebuilding trust and harmony between the Kashmiri people. "Despite being victims of terrible atrocities since 1989, the global Kashmiri Hindu community is well-placed to take the lead in bridging the ideological divide between the two sides on the role of Article 370 by standing up for Kashmiris belonging to all religions", he said.

KartikeyaTanna (Intro - Subash Razdan)

Mr. Subash Razdan former President of NFIA and Chairman, Gandhi Foundation discussed the implications of Dr. Fai’s arrest and asked the Kashmiri Hindu community to learn lessons from Fai, even in his moment of adversity; the way he was dedicated and committed to his cause which was anti to our cause. He explained how Dr. Fai made efforts to meet with him in Atlanta but was denied by Mr. Razdan.

Subash Razdan

Dr. Shakti Bhan, Vice Chairperson Panun Kashmir said that instead of having a nationalistic approach to the Kashmir problem, the Indian Government sees it as a vote bank problem. She pointed out that the appointment of Interlocutors for Kashmir has to be seen in this perspective. The second point she made was about the return policy of the Govt. for Kashmiri Hindus under the present conditions in Kashmir. "They want to point to us that we have to live there under subjugation. Thank God, that better sense has prevailed and only a few hundred people from the community have gone back to the valley. I only hope and pray to God that the lady folk who have gone there for employment remain safe and secure". She asked if it is possible to live in an Islamized Kashmir, where even the name of Srinagar has been changed to Sher-e-Khas, not to speak about the names of Shankracharaya hill, Hari Parbat, many towns, even lanes and bylanes whose names have been revised to Islamic ones. "You may as well be living in a middle Eastern country!” commented Dr. Bhan.

Dr. Shakti Bhan- Panun Kashmir

Session commencement
'How to get reconnected with Kashmir' - Arun Koul 

Dr. Romesh Raina the the General Secretary of AIKS spoke on the topic regarding how to get reconnected with Kashmir. “Part of our long journey is indeed the story of our exodus and the idea of living in the socio-psychological memory of Kashmir. It relies on re-connectivity with Kashmir. Through post-exodus circumstances and survival considerations, the emphasis has to be on the creation of a legitimate political and physical space in Kashmir which no more exists now as there has been a near total marginalization of the community from all areas of mainstream political life of the state.”

Dr. Romesh Raina - AIKS

Filmmaker & Social Activist Mr. Ashok Pandit a fireband community activist appreciated the platform Shehjar has created to connect people from different parts of the world. He criticized the political leadership of Kashmiri Hindus and demanded more dependability from it.He emphasized the role that the artist and scholar community can play in helping Kashmiri Hindus re-connect with Kashmir and asked for support of the wider community in creating a greater and stronger role for its artists

Ashoke Pandit
Dr. Anil Kaul, Director KHF, and trustee KMECT explained the consequences of the exodus on the health conditions of many community members and what KMECT is doing in this regard. He said that to get the status of Internally Displaced People (IDP), action would be required from the Government of India, which is not forthcoming. He quoted his experience working in this field.

Dr. Anil Kaul- KMECT

Arman Koul, a Arman Koul, a 13 year old boy from Boston had earlier, through a poem articulated why there is no substitute for a physical presence in the valley. He remarked "For all of the Kashmiri children like me, who have never seen the motherland it is one of the most essential experiences that we all want and must have. I am just saying that Kashmir is a very focal point in all of our lives, and the longer we delay rekindling the past, the farther we distance ourselves from our roots."

Yet here I stand
On the land of Kashmir
But the feeling of contentment
I had expected is not present,
Filling the void of solitude
Where did everyone go?”

Arman Koul -13 year old 

Dr. Rattan Lal Shant, a noted Kashmiri Scholar, writer, poet, critic and recipient of Presidents Gold Medal and spoke about the importance and necessity of maintaining our mother tongue Kashmiri and preserving our cultural values and festivals. He said, "We ourselves need to preserve our culture and the Government may not come to our rescue. Of all the factors responsible to keep culture intact, language is the most potent one." He further emphasized that language is very closely connected to the land of a people and since we have lost our land, we are losing our culture. He prescribed that, "Vaakh, KhirBhawani Times and Vitasta are some of our language based magazines which should find their place in our homes".

Prof. Rattan Lal Shant (Intro - Deepak Ganju) 

Dr. B.B. Dhar, Chairman, Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society-KECSS explained their work and further steps in saving the language and culture of the exiled Kashmiri Hindu community. He said, "Fundamentally there are four aspects of our culture which need to be understood if we have to survive as a distinct community in the world of today. Namely; Language and Kashmiri Literature, Religious and Marriage Rituals, Music and Folklore, Heritage, its value and Preservation". He highlighted that KECSS has started a very big step; the ShuhulTaaph (Sweet Sunshine) which is now a regular 2-3 day Kashmiri festival each year typically focused on culture, education, literature activities with artists from Kashmir and all over participating.

Dr. B.B. Dhar- KECSS (Intro - Deepak Ganju)

Dr. Ashok Raina, Founding member IAKF and past President KOA said, "While we cannot immediately reverse the mass exodus of our community from Kashmir, we have to make all efforts to preserve our culture. Two key components of that are language and rituals". Dr. Raina spoke about how we could go about ensuring such preservation. He touched on the topic of marriages and how in now very common mixed marriage situations too, we could preserve significant aspects of our culture.

Dr. Ashok Raina (Intro - Deepak Ganju)

Mr. Paviter Handoo, President KOA provided a brief description of what Kashmiri Overseas Association has been doing over the last few years, and will accomplish going forward.He said, "For a community that has lost its ancestral mooring through terror and fanaticism, Kashmiri Overseas association has through its programs invested over $1 million raised here in the United States from our community. A good part of this money has gone towards education and medical emergency requirements of our needy".

Paviter Handoo , KOA (Intro - Deepak Ganju) 

Dr. Khema Kaul, Chairman, KashmiraVahini scheduled to speak was unable to attend due her sudden travel plans to attend an emergency situation. The conference volunteers talked to her while she was travelling to wish her family well.

Panun Kashmir, Kashmiri Hindu Foundation Inc- KHF, Hindu American Foundation- HAF, Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA), Kashmiri Medical Emergency & Charitable Trust KMECT, All India Kashmir Samaj –AIKS, Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society- KECSS, were some of the organizations which had representation in the panel making the forum truly representative of the mainstream Kashmiri Hindu community

This conference was made possible due to the efforts of some key individuals who worked tirelessly behind the scene including Dr. Amrit Nehru and Rajeev Sumbly.

Concluding Remarks- Arun Koul & Ankit Monga ending with Kashmiri Bhajan

Editors, the Shehjar Publication

About Shehjar:
The publication serves the global population of those interested in Kashmir and in matters regarding Kashmir, particularly those showcasing the Kashmiri Hindu Culture native to the place. Shehjar is the single most widely read online magazine on Kashmir and has found deep and emotional patronage especially within the globally scattered Kashmiri Hindu community.

“Shehjar is just a website and not an Acting Authority or Driving Organization. The international Teleconference had the objective of allowing a people (the Kashmiri Hindu community) who have a story to tell to have an avenue to do so. It will be up to various associations and socially/ politically active organizations to venture further how they deem fit. We do not have an agenda to push a unique or individual opinion for our own reasons; instead we welcome shades of opinion so that the displaced community may firm up regarding articulating and communicating its (Kashmiri Hindu) stand with uniformity, holding facts and figures. Let the community establish some common ground upon which individual member opinions can stand. The community can and should for its own sake discuss the matter on forums. Here are links to a few documents/opinions that could be used as starting points for a discussion”:-
Here are links to a few documents/opinions that could be used as starting points for a discussion”:- Click here
A timely initiative to kindle the minds of Kashmiri Bhattas to conserve their culture and survive their distinct entity.The pooling of the minds and brains is going to give birth to new ideas and approaches those will prompt all of us to break off from a state of hopeless despondency that we are in.Shehjar has done a superb job.The team deserves kudos.
Added By pushkar ganjoo
This effort by Shehjar is amazing and something that will take our cause to next level. I feel extremely proud of such an effort.
Added By Sanjay Tickoo
I was very impressed by both the conduct and the contents of the teleconference. I must compliment you and your colleagues for the successful teleconference.
Added By Vijay Dhar
This was a great initiative. Hope Shehjar can will initiate more such exercises that will benefit our community so that we can progress in the right directions.
Added By Dalip Raina
Hope we have more Tele-Conf like this.Great job done by Shehjar publications/Kashmiri Hindu Foundation and many more.
Added By Dr. Amrit Nehru
Nice one, but action of plan need to be implemented rather than discussion
Added By Rakesh Pandit
It was great to be a part of this International Conference where it was not a scripted conference where speakers are instructed to speak on a pre-scripted draft, where a resolution is prepared in advance even before the speakers have spoken. We wanted to be democratic and allow the speakers to present their real opinions and present those to the world.
Added By Deepak Ganju
This was one of the best and very successful conference. Kudos to the organizers.
Added By Sanjay Koul
It is very appreciable. Unity of thought and purpose is utmost important for our community at this juncture, i believe if we follow the path of Jews we can achieve the opportunities this is my thought. My best wishes to all the participants of shehjar world wide
Added By Subodh Mukoo
Great Initiative. Best wishes.
Added By Dr, A K Raina
Thank you for an excellent reporting of conference on Kashmir organized by Shehjar with participation of global scholars.
Added By Prof. Saligram Bhatt
The tele-communication conference by Shehjar is a great success. let all peace loving Kashmiri raise a voice to rehabilitate their unfortunate brothers and sisters in their homes in Kashmir. Most of them are saintly people who are keen to spread peace and common spirituality for humankind.
Added By Prof. Saligram Bhatt
Heartiest congratulations to bring community together....keep it up.....Aahee!
Added By Dalip Langoo
it is better to take arms to revenge our suffering, we should target those who oppose our living,making meeting like apex or anyother makes no sense. it is better time to stand and make struggle get our right, we are people living on 9kg of rice that is we desire after our forefathers have made sacrifice for this nation,i swear by mother i will be first to strike first
Added By rakesh dhar rakesh