Pallone Concerned That a Congressional Hearing on Human Rights Abuses Kashmir Did Not Include Pandits

May 13, 2004

Washington, D.C. -- During a hearing of the House Government Reform Human Rights and Wellness Subcommittee on human rights abuses in the Kashmir Valley, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), founder of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, yesterday expressed concern that the hearing did not include a witness or expert representing the Kashmiri Pandit community.

"The plight of the Kashmiri Pandits should have been the priority at this hearing today if we are to truly highlight human rights abuses in Kashmir," Pallone said during the hearing. "Yet, I do not see any panel member representing Kashmiri Pandits and I would like to know why their human rights abuses against this community have not been prioritized by the panel today."

During the hearing, the New Jersey Congressman stated that abuses committed against the Pandits would continue unless their plight is prioritized by the National Human Rights Commission and by both the Indian and Pakistani governments.

"Only when the cold-blooded murder of innocent victims in Kashmir is eliminated will the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its people be able to live with some semblance of normalcy." Pallone said.

In a longer written statement submitted for the committee's record, Pallone also addressed the issue of Islamic militants who infiltrate the border into Kashmir and target violence against the Pandit community.

"Human rights abuses and terrorism by Islamic fundamentalist and Jihad groups operating in Kashmir have been well documented by the U.S. government and in fact, some of these terrorist organizations have been shown to have direct ties to Al-Qaeda," Pallone wrote. "Islamic militant infiltration at the J&K Line of Control, cold-blooded terrorism throughout Kashmir, and Pakistani military and moral support for insurgents must be terminated."

Since 1990, tens of thousands of Pandits have fled their home of over 5,000 years in Kashmir due to extreme danger and instability. The Kashmiri Pandit community has faced a

long history of attacks that resulted in the murder of well over 60,000 Pandit men, women and children and caused the mass migration of this indigenous population from the Kashmir Valley. The severity and the frequency of the attacks have increased to a near daily occurrence because of Pakistani militant insurgency at the Line of Control