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Why Are Kashmir OpEds Silent on Facts?

Author: Rahul Pandit
Publication: Medium.com
Date: October 6, 2019
URL:      https://medium.com/@IAKForg/kashmir-oped-silent-on-facts-eb181d8b4a7e

The latest authors to jump on the opinion bandwagon against India’s handling of Kashmir took the form of an OpEd on the Howdy Modi event in Houston, TX on September 22. In their piece on Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the home of the Houston Texans football team, they comment on the current situation in Kashmir using a narrative that has conspicuously demonstrated a continued absence of important facts over the past 30 years, since terrorism firmly rooted itself in the Valley.

Opinions should be molded by facts and not a simple summary of the opinions of others, especially when those opinions have often been shaped and supported financially by foreign agents such as Ghulam Nabi Fai and Paul Manafort, or those of a foreign state such as Pakistan. One only need recall the stories coming from ‘reliable’ sources in 1990 in the Vale of Kashmir stating that the Kashmiri Pandits willingly left their homes in the middle of the night on the day of mass exodus when 350,000 Hindus were driven out of the valley. We of course knew that we were the target of a mass ethnic cleansing, but it took the world years to decipher facts from the fiction emanating from terrorists and their sympathizers, including Pakistan.

The Indo-American Kashmir Forum (IAKF) has been at the forefront of providing facts to counter this misguided narrative since 1991. IAKF is the only U.S. based Kashmiri minority human rights advocacy organization to be cited by the U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, in which the U.S. Department of State also acknowledges the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits due to targeted killings of members of our community.

Instead of recirculating statements such as “some residents have claimed to be beaten by security forces’’, the OpEd authors would be better served by conducting their own fact-checking. My good friend and Kashmiri Muslim journalist at JK Panorama resides in Srinagar and has been a wealth of information over the years. He assures me there is no violence on the part of India or it’s security forces, only on the part of terrorists. These incidences are well documented in the news media, including the murder of a shopkeeper by a terrorist wishing to prevent him from resuming business hours so that the false story of continued oppression could be propagated. Or worse, the brutal shooting of five-year-old Asma Jaan in her home while her father was being tortured for violating the terrorists’ ban on apple trading, one of the largest export businesses in the valley. Then the propaganda machine turned on and tried blaming her shooting on the Indian military.

On the contrary, my journalist friend confirms no death has been reported on the account of government security officials or police. Understandably, he (and I) lament the continued loss of mobile phone connectivity in the Valley, which has led parents to fear sending their children to school due to an inability to contact them while they are away from home. This loss remains in effect not throughout the entire Valley, but in a handful of districts — districts which happen to be strongholds of Pakistan sponsored terror activity. So a more complete picture of their fear must include the fact that terrorist-imposed curfews and their presence in large numbers also contributes to fears for one’s children.

Though life is not functioning normally in the valley, there has been no mass violence or cross-border infiltration of terrorists to the level that has occurred in the past during periods of unrest. Hospitals are functioning as are landlines and now the return of mobile phone connectivity in many districts as well.

To those that wish to challenge India’s proactive measures, one only needs to understand what happens in Kashmir when extremists impose their will. In 2016, they instigated violent rioting after India killed Burhan Wani, a member of the State Department designated terrorist organization Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, resulting in the need to cut telecommunications for months. Wani was revered amongst the militants in the valley and had boasted openly about killing Kashmiri Hindus.

While there are many opinions on Modi himself, he has done what no other leader in independent India’s history has achieved by garnering a majority of parties across a broad coalition in parliament to democratically support passage of the recent actions on Kashmir. Modi and the ruling party’s action on the abrogation of Article 370 was supported by India’s leading Islamic organization Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. Across the ocean in Houston, the Howdy Modi event was supported by the Indian Muslims Association of Greater Houston and Sikhs of America. On the contrary, protestors included purported human rights groups serving as fronts for Pakistan, terrorist organizations, and the violent separatist Khalistan movement.

Due to a recantation of a misguided narrative, the authors of the aforementioned OpEd conclude that some members of Houston’s community have remained “oddly silent” about the recent actions in Kashmir. Perhaps the authors have not listened carefully to those, like ourselves, that have advocated for the human rights and dignified return of all minorities to Kashmir, and an end to terrorism for the past 30 years. I challenge today’s newfound opinion makers to base their opinions with facts on the ground before jumping into the Valley of opinions about Kashmir without a parachute of knowledge.

* Rahul Pandit, MD
* Director of Communications, Indo-American Kashmir Forum


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