Srinagar, Jan 18 (IANS): The Kashmiri Pandit community worldwide will observe ‘Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday in memory of the victims of the over three-decade long violence in Kashmir and to reaffirm the community's resolve to fight violence, racism and other forms of intolerance.
Satish Mahaldar, Chairman of Reconciliation, Return and Rehabilitation of Migrants (RRRM), an organisation of migrant Kashmiri Pandits, said in a statement on Tuesday, "Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed each year on January 19 by Kashmiri Pandits to pay tribute to the victims and to reaffirm commitment to counter violence, racism, and other forms of intolerance.
"The Holocaust Day matters to the Kashmiri Pandits because it is one of the most extensively documented instances of atrocity, hatred, dehumanisation and apathy in the present-day world history. It matters because when ethnic cleansing of minorities was happening, the world just watched silently."
Mahaldar added that today, Kashmiri Pandits remember that as the citizens and original aborigines of Kashmir and the community can and must do better.
"The Holocaust Day should make all in and outside India ponder and investigate what went wrong so horrifically in a place of high culture, high modernity and supposedly ‘civilised' Kashmiri way of life. The day is particularly important as we realise that, unfortunately, it was not an isolated event.
"The 20th century saw acts of horrific violence ranging from the murder of over a lakh of innocent Kashmiris to ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits. Ethnic cleansing of the minorities in Kashmir demonstrated the dangers of prejudice, discrimination and dehumanisation and other forms of racism and intolerance," Mahaldar said in the statement.
He added that the Holocaust Day teaches all about the possibilities in extreme actions of perpetrators. This developed an awareness not only of how hate and violence take hold, but also of the power of resistance, resilience and solidarity in local, national and in global contexts, he said.
"Ethnic cleansing of minorities in Kashmir highlights the efforts of the national community to respond to modern genocide. Unfortunately, till date the government of India has not established the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.
"The former J&K governments forced the original aborigines in an involuntary process of cultural assimilation due to which the ethnic minority is left with no choice but to adopt the language, identity, norms, customs, traditions, perceptions, way of life and often religion and ideology of the established and generally larger community belonging to the dominant culture.
"Besides the ethnic and cultural genocide, the mainstream political parties, both national and regional, are equally responsible for the 'Policide' of the Kashmiri Pandits. Since 1965, political empowerment has been intentionally denied to the original aborigines and the ethnic minority of the state," the statement said.
Mahaldar further said in the statement that since 1990, more than four lakh people are unable to cast their votes, which is the basic foundation of democracy.
"In the light of all this, it is important for the J&K government and the Union of India to rise up to the responsibility towards the Constitution of India. The safeguarding of the aborigines is enshrined in the Constitution of our country. Hence, the government must protect the Kashmiri Pandit community by allocating a certain budget towards them.
"The government must recognise that reconciliation, return and rehabilitation of five lakh Kashmiri Pandits should be part and parcel of the annual J&K Budget.
"Return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits should be treated as a matter of priority. While exercising the delimitation process, the Kashmir Pandits' names must be incorporated to restore their denied democratic rights," Mahaldar said in the statement.