- Kashmir was always an integral part of India: Sunanda Vashisht
- Pak terrorists caused "ISIS level of brutality" in Kashmir, she said
- She called for international cooperation in India's fight against terror
India has successfully defeated insurgencies in Punjab and the Northeast and it is now time to strengthen New Delhi's fight against insurgencies in Kashmir, columnist Sunanda Vashisht told a US Congressional hearing on Human Rights in Washington on Thursday. Terrorists trained by Pakistan had caused "ISIS level of horror and brutality" in the Kashmir Valley long before the West was even introduced to the brutalities of radical Islamic terror, Ms Vashisht said, adding that international cooperation in India's fight against terror would also solve the human rights problem in the state.
"India's democratic credentials are unmatched. The country has successfully, in a democratic setup, defeated insurgencies in Punjab and the northeast. It is time to strengthen India against such insurgencies and the human rights problems will be solved forever," Ms Vashisht told the hearing organised by Tom Lantos HR Commission. This is the second hearing by US Congress in the last three weeks on Kashmir, which has been under massive security restrictions since August 5, when the government announced the end of special status to the state and split it into two union territories.
India has "not occupied" Kashmir and Kashmir was always an integral part of India, she said. "India is not just a 70-year-old identity, but a 5000-year-old civilisation. There is no India without Kashmir, and no Kashmir without India."
Talking about what she described as "ISIS level of horror and brutality" she had seen in Kashmir, the columnist said: "I am glad these hearings are happening here today because when my family and everyone like me lost our homes our livelihood and our way of life the world remained silent." The hearing mostly comprised of Democrats, who have been more vocal in their criticism after India revoked the special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and split it into two union territories.
Ms Vashisht also questioned what she called the silence of world leaders when some 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus were driven out of the Valley in the 1990s, when Pakistan-backed terrorists started targeting the community.
"Where were the advocates of human rights when my rights were taken away? Where was the saviour of humanity when my feeble old grandfather stood with kitchen knives and an old rusted axe ready to kill my mother and I in order to save us from the much worse fate that awaited us? All deaths have been happening due to terrorists trained by Pakistan. This doublespeak is not helping India in any way," the columnist stressed before the gathering.
She called the international community to assist India in its fight against radical Islamic terror.
"Plebiscite in Kashmir is never going to happen," she said. Plebiscite requires the entire community to unite for a decision, but in this case, a part of Kashmir is in India, another in Pakistan, a part of it is also with China, Ms Vashisht added.
Sheila Jackson Lee, a Congresswoman from Texas, in response to Ms Vashisht, asked for a pathway to ensure human rights in the region. She also asked the Indian government to allow members of the US Congress to visit the region.
Yousra Y Fazili, a human rights lawyer, said there was a "climate of fear in Kashmir" and alleged that her relative was among those taken into custody in raids. "Armed forces conduct night raids on homes and are pulling young men and boys into custory. My cousin was taken into custody in a night raid such as that. He's not a politician, not a freedom fighter, not a stone-pelter. He's just a businessman."
Senior journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh, who also spoke at the first US Congress hearing in October, praised Ms Vashisht's speech at Tom Lantos HR Commission hearing.
I was a disaster at the US Congressional hearing on Kashmir last month. But @sunandavashisht was just absolutely brilliant at Tom Lantos HR Commission hearing today. Do listen to her testimony as a Kashmiri Pandit who spoke truth to power. She is phenomenal. Take a bow.- Aarti Tikoo Singh (@AartiTikoo) November 14, 2019
Some US lawmakers have expressed concern about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir amid security restrictions. For over 100 days, there have been restrictions on internet and mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir, and several mainstream politicians remain in detention.
The lawmakers have called for the release of detained politicians and activists and an end to restrictions on communication and movement of people.
Terming the criticism as "regrettable", India had said the comments reflected a very limited understanding of the country's history and its pluralistic society.
With inputs from ANI and PTI