Who cares for the Pandits?
- Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: July 30, 2004
Fact, the Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism, was fortunate -- thanks to the efforts of
Sunil Bakshi, director of the Indo-European Kashmir Forum -- to have organised an exhibition and screened a film on the plight of Kashmiri Hindus called 'Terrorism Unleashed' at one of the most prestigious venues in London, the Commonwealth Club, Northumberland Avenue, just off Trafalgar Square.
Pyara S Khabra, a British MP, inaugurated the exhibition. He highlighted the forced exile of Kashmiri Hindus from their homeland due to the continued threat of terrorism and said the Indian government must create a safe haven in Kashmir for the return of Kashmiri Hindus. Pledging his support to Kashmiri Hindus, he assured all present that he would highlight the plight of Kashmiri Hindus in the House of Commons, the British parliament.
Earlier, the exhibition was also held at Brent Town hall, Wembley, on June 27, and at the Clyde hall, Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre, Glasgow three days earlier.
Unfortunately, in spite of a good crowd, the results were not up to expectations.
First, where were the 200,000 Hindus from London and the 700,000 who live in the UK? As usual, most Hindus abroad only look after themselves, giving their children a thorough Western education and ensuring thus that they are lost forever to India. I even saw an Indian man turn his heels as soon as he saw it was something on terrorism and another woman tell me: "Don't you think it is RSS and BJP?"
We also witnessed firsthand the basic hostility of Amnesty International to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. Sunil Bakshi had repeatedly sent invitations to them three weeks before the exhibition. I personally called the head of Kashmir at Amnesty International several times as well as Ingrid Massage, the director, Asia & Pacific Program of Amnesty. First she told us they only reported on first hand facts, I replied these were photographs and statistics which nobody could dispute. Finally, after ten phone calls, she said she had too many files on her desk and that she had no time to come, although the exhibtion was a few blocks from her office. So much for Amnesty's sense of justice.
I personally had a lot of hope in the British press. I thought if they saw the photographs showing innocent Kashmiri Pandits' children being mercilessly butchered; the beautiful film made by filmmaker Ashok Pandit (who just released Sheen) on the tragic story of a harmless community which through terror have become refugees in their own land; the statistics which nobody can deny: 1 million Kashmiri Hindus in 1900 in the Kashmir valley and barely a few hundreds today; more than 1,200 Hindu temples destroyed -- they would be moved. I was sadly mistaken.
One of the few journalists who cared to come to the exhibition was Michael Binyon, lead writer for the prestigious London Times. Michael saw the exhibition and sat during the film without saying a word. At the end he had this to say: "It is very crude, it is not made for the British public, it sounds too much like propaganda."
I was shattered: here was an intelligent, upper class Britisher who occupies a senior position in the most venerable of British newspapers and he reacts like that! I also understood the spirit put by a few people in institutions such as the Times endure long after these people are dead and that decades later, journalists like Michael Binyon repeat like parrots what their ancestors whisper in their ears.
Michael's utterances were so colonialist in their essence, so superior minded in their content, that he should have seen it himself, although they were uttered in a very civil manner.
I replied the poor Kashmiri Pandits had never carried a gun in their hands and had to flee the valley like so many sacrificial lambs. But it made no difference to the Times of London or Amnesty International.
Yet, the Pakistani and Kashmiri Muslim community in London, whose religious brothers butcher entire Hindu villages, blow up buses transporting families of Indian soldiers going on leave, get a much more sympathetic hearing from The Times and Amnesty. What a world!
I understood also that in the West, journalists don't go by facts, do not substantiate their writings by on the ground reporting and search for truth beyond preconceived ideas. No, they go by the politically correct, by what is said at the moment, or what is in fashion in Leftist and intellectual circles. This is not true journalism, this is the worst kind of conceited journalism.
The sad thing is that journalists in turn influence the public at large, so that many of my friends in Europe -- good, sincere people -- repeat with great conviction things which they do not understand and which are not based on facts: "Hindus are fundamentalists."
In the end you are left with the realisation that nobody cares about the Kashmiri Pandits, neither abroad nor in India. They are too small a community to constitute a voting bank. They also don't make their voices heard: they don't blow up buses full of innocent civilians and don't fire Kalashnikovs at crowds and, of course, they themselves are a disunited lot and except for a few beings like Sunil Bakshi or Ashok Pandit, nobody sticks his or her neck out.
There remains then a feeling of sadness, of a world upside down, where what sells by millions is Bill Clinton's memoir which has no interest except his affair with Monica Lewinsky, where the politically correct, the shallow and untrue has the upper hand, and where the voices of the truly downtrodden are not heard. It is a world where those who shout that unless we start accepting each other, unless Islam starts reforming itself and stops killing innocent people in the name of one true God, we are going towards catastrophe, are labelled as dangerous radicals, pro-Hindu and anti- Muslim.
Nevertheless we are continuing our fight. We have the blessings of great souls like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who inaugurated the exhibition in Glasgow. Many Indians are also giving us their support. Ultimately, truth has to triumph.
Sooner, or later, too, the world will realise that India is a great, liberal, pro-Western nation, its best bet in Asia -- not China, which is neither democratic nor liberal nor pro-Western.
It will also realise that the greatness of India lies in greater part in its Hindu ethos, the belief that God manifests Himself at different periods of history through different names. India has to become the spiritual leader of the world, as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and today Sri Sri Ravi Shankar prophetised.