Over 150 Kashmiri Pandits, along with members of civil society, held a silent protest at the Jantar Mantar here Sunday and demanded that the government recognise them as internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The protesters, including children, students and professionals, were dressed in their traditional firhan attire and wore headbands. The children wore dresses with “Born in exile” written on them.
“We wore white firhans which signified the death of this (Kashmiri Pandit) community and headbands on which was written ‘Ignored’. This is how we feel, ignored and left out,” said Rashneek Kher, one of the organisers from Roots in Kashmir, a global youth initiative of Kashmiri Pandits.
The group demanded that they be recognised not as migrants but as IDP’s citing the fact that they were forced to leave their homes and did not come to Delhi or other cities willingly.
“The IDP recognition will help us get international attention and our rehabilitation and relief work will then be taken care by the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and not the government of India, which has not done much for us since the last 21 years of our forced exile,” added Kher.
“We want to be identified,” was written on many placards amongst others held by the protesters.
Amal Magazine, a protester, said that by terming them migrants, the Indian government was robbing them of their identity.
“We are refugees not migrants. Give us that identity. If the prime minister can ask the Sri Lankan government to give the Tamils in the island country IDP status, then why not us? We were thrown out of our own homes just because we called ourselves Indians,” Magazine told IANS.
“I am very worried about the new generation. Using guns to do the talking is not a part of our culture. The impression that the young get now is that our silent protests is of no use. When there is violence, people wake up. If the government doesn’t pay attention to us, there may be serious repercussions,” said Veerji Wangoo, another protester.
There are around 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits in the Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).
“According to government figures, there were approximately 4.5 lakh who were displaced during the exodus in the early 1990s from the Valley. Some were not registered, so I asume there are more,” said Kher.
The protesters also demanded setting up of a commission to probe the exodus, its reasons and the exact number of “refugees”.