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Letter to Honourable Justice J S Verma

Letter to Honourable Justice J S Verma

Author: P Parameswaran
Publication: Hindu Voice
Date: September 2002

Dated: 13.08.02
To: Honourable justice J.S. Verma
Chairman, National Human Rights
Commission, New Delhi. Respectful

I don't know whether you remember our brief meeting at Coimbatore where you had come as the Chief Guest at the Annual Conference of the Bharat Vikas Parishad presided over by Justice Rama Jois in which I was also present as a speaker. I hope this finds you in perfect health and spirit.

I happened to read the report of your speech (in The New Indian Express and The Hindu dated 5th August 2002); it a round table at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, in which you are reported to have expressed grave concern at the plight of the Muslim refugees living in makeshift camps in Gujarat. The papers also reported your advice to the Prime Minister "to match his rhetoric with actions" and suggested that he should practice Hinduism in the manner prescribed by Swami Vivekananda. I can very well understand your concern in the matter

Whoever had organised the seminar and invited the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission to address the same must have very clear motives for doing so. It is obvious that the seminar was in the context of the debated issue of the Gujarat polls. They must be extremely delighted at their success since you have put your official weight, which is very considerable on their side.

I would not object to your doing so. As chairman of the National Human Rights Commission you have not only your right, it is also your duty to express your considered opinion if your conscience bids you so.

But I have great reservations about certain factors directly related to an equally crucial issue, which is currently attracting worldwide attention. I refer to the recently announced polls in the state of Jammu-Kashmir. Both have great similarities and both are equally controversial, with the difference that the Jammu-Kashmir issue has been hanging fire and attracting worldwide attention for decades now. There are more than 7.5 lakhs of Hindu refugees undergoing a miserable existence in various refugee camps, not only within the state but also outside. Many have lost their hope of ever going back home. Many are no more with us. Their condition is not only no better, but indeed far worse than that of the Gujarat refugees. The Kashmiri Pundits who have been left high and dry even after decades have openly stated that they don't have even their names in the voters list and that they don't expect any justice even after the polls.

That has been their experience all these years. Having lost faith in the outcome of the poll they are now demanding nominated representation to the assembly. I don't think anyone could blame them.

I am deeply pained that you have not made even a casual reference expressing your anguish at. their pitiable plight. Not only as the chairman of the Human Rights Commission, but even as an ordinary human being with sensitive heart I feel that you committed a grave omission in totally disregarding the question of the long suffering refugees of Kashmir. Do they not deserve equal care and sympathy as the refugees in Gujarat? I would not like to believe that the omission was deliberate or that your judicious mind would make a distinction between two sets of human beings. Moreover, if the Muslim refugees in Gujarat are minorities in the state, the same is true of the Kashmiri Pundits. I do believe that as National Human Rights Commission Chairman, the State of Jammu-Kashmir also comes under your jurisdiction.

In this connection, permit me to quote Dr. Karan Singh whose credentials to speak on behalf of the people of Jammu-Kashmir on this very relevant issue cannot be questioned. He says "Jammu-Kashmir has been facing nothing but a continuous earthquake for the past thirteen years of militancy" (The Hindu dated 10th August 2002). I hope I will be justified in quoting your statement relating to Gujarat in your speech. "The people of Gujarat had undergone the same suffering and miseries that one experience during the war. They had lost their kith and kin in large numbers. They could hot go back to their areas", (The Hindu dated 5th August 2002). Both are comparable statements, but there is a glaring difference. Though Dr. Karan Singh is not optimistic that the elections will solve all the problems of Jammu Kashmir, he disagreed that the situation was not conducive for holding the elections, whereas you had more or less totally thrown your weight against the desirability of elections in Gujarat at least by implications. Let me make it clear that it is not the question of election that cause me anxiety. What hurt me most was your utter silence with regards to the continuing sufferings of the Hindu community in Jammu Kashmir.

Regarding your reference to the kind of Hinduism preached and practiced by Swami Vivekananda I would like to strongly recommend a close and thorough reading of the Swamijis works and not to quote him in a casual manner. It is true that Swami' Vivekananda stood, not only for religious tolerance but also for universal acceptance". But he never advised people to tolerate, much less accept, intolerance and face humiliation at the hands of others. I am pretty sure, 'having gone through the entire life and literature of Swami Vivekananda many times, that he would not appreciate an inhuman terrorist act like the Godhra incident to be, tolerated by the Hindu society passively. He would have called it a sign of cowardly inertia. Any way I would not waste your time or mine by going in to details. I would rather leave it your good self.

I am writing this rather belatedly because I was not well and was undergoing treatment when report of your speech appeared in the press. I have a fear that the papers might not have done full justice to your speech and might have selectively quoted you. In that case I would request your indulgence and forgiveness. But since the matter is of great importance I thought I should communicate with you, better late than never, would you be kind enough to acknowledge and allay my fears, since I hold you in very great esteem?

Though the letter is already too long I would like to bring to your notice a short paragraph from the English translation of an article from a French journal L'Express titled "Le Jeu dangereux des nationalists (The Dangerous Game of the Nationalists)" published in the Organiser of 4th August 2002: "why don't you ask your correspondent to write an article on the 'Kashmiri Pundits', those Hindus who live in sordid camps and in deplorable conditions, after having been forced out of the their ancestral and native Kashmir, where they were massacred by Muslim extremists? Do you know how many refugees are there in their own country? - 7,50,000 (since 1989). There is no chance of your reporter telling you that. Do you know that till the 16th century Hindus were still, in a majority in Kashmir? Why did they leave? Have you heard of "ethnic cleansing?" this practice is thirteen centuries old (since the advent of Islam)." Thanking you.

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