2019 – 2020 was a historic time period for the former Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Most significantly, on August 5, 2019, the Indian government legally, democratically, and constitutionally abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of India’s Constitution, temporary provisions that conferred special status on the state of Jammu and Kashmir. (PTI, 2019) The move sought to better integrate the residents of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh into the rest of India, ensuring that they enjoy equal protection under the law and all the rights afforded to other Indian citizens, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion, or social class, and have access to better educational and economic opportunities. It is also expected to address long standing corruption by local political parties and bureaucrats, and create a stable security environment and conditions for the rehabilitation and resettlement of fleeing Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus), thousands of whom still live in squalid refugee camps after being ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir Valley in 1989-1990.

At the same time, Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two new Union Territories (UT): one for Jammu and Kashmir, and one for Ladakh. Religious and political leaders in Ladakh had long called for separate UT status for Ladakh and complained of being socially and economically marginalized by state policies that favored the Kashmir Valley. (Pillalamarri, 2019)

The abrogation and bifurcation came shortly on the heels of the largest terror attack in Kashmir in years, when a sucide bomber from the Pakistan sponsored terror group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), killed 44 Indian security officers in the Kashmir town of Pulwama on February 14, 2019, leading to heightened tensions between India and Pakistan. (Centre for Policy Research, 2019)

After the Pulwama attack, the Pakistani military and ISI continued to sponsor cross-border terrorism in Indian Kashmir through the remainder of 2019 and 2020. The number of attacks and casualties went down after August 2019 and continued to remain low in 2020, though there were a number of targeted killings of both Hindus and Muslims. (SATP, 2021)

Beyond Pakistan’s subversive activities in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, it has suppressed basic rights in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), placing legal restrictions on political rights and freedom of expression by banning parties that do not explicitly endorse Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. Similarly, government employees are required to express their support for accession. Moreover, at least 100 Kashmiri civil rights activists have been killed in POK in the last two years, a region ranked by Freedom House as “Not Free” in their 2020 Freedom in the World Report. (Freedom House, 2020) In response to oppression and human rights violations by the Pakistani state, mass protests against the Pakistani military and central government increased towards the end of 2020 and continued into 2021. (Times Now News, 2020; News Intervention Bureau, 2021)

History/Background

Kashmir has historically been inhabited by Hindus and Buddhists and had a majority Hindu population until the 14th century when Islamic invaders entered the region.  Ancient Kashmir was renowned as a center for Hindu and Buddhist learning and was ruled by Hindu kings until 1339.  Hindus indigenous to the Kashmir Valley, known as Kashmiri Pandits, are the original inhabitants of Kashmir and have a unique ethno-religious culture that dates back more than 5,000 years. (Kak, 1993)

Following waves of Islamic invasions, numerous foreign origin Muslim rulers occupied Kashmir until 1819.  Under Muslim rule, Hindus faced periods of persecution resulting in several mass migrations from Kashmir. (Kak, 1993) Sikhs gained control over the region in 1819 and ruled Kashmir until 1846, followed by the Hindu Dogra (an ethnic group native to the Jammu region in the state) reign from 1846 to 1947. (Kak, 1993)

Kashmir’s Accession to India

The Princely State of Kashmir, which was ruled by the Dogra king Hari Singh at the time of partition in 1947, joined the Indian Union after Pakistan’s armed forces orchestrated an invasion of Kashmir using Pashtun “tribesmen” and regular military personnel. The invading tribal militia committed mass atrocities against the people of Kashmir, including massacres of Muslims and Hindus, and the capture of non-Muslim women. (Khan, 2017) Thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were forced to flee POK while thousands more were killed. On November 25, 1947, over 20,000 Hindus and Sikhs were slaughtered by the invading tribal militia and Pakistani army in the city of Mirpur in what became known as the Mirpur Massacre. (Chaudhary, 2013; Sarkar, 2016) Violence was also carried out by Sikhs and Hindus against Muslims during this time in Jammu. (Sarkar, 2016)

There are no Hindus remaining in POK due to killings and forced conversions, though it is still home to ancient Hindu sacred sites, such as Sharda Peeth, one of the three holiest pilgrimage sites for Kashmiri Hindus.

Following the Pakistani offensive, Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession formalizing Kashmir’s legal accession to India. (Haqqani, 2003) The accession was also approved by the largest and most popular Kashmiri political party, the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah.  Once Kashmir legally joined India, Indian forces were deployed to stop the advancing Pakistani military, leading to a full-scale war between the two countries. (Haqqani, 2003)

Following the intervention of the Indian military and with Pakistan forces in retreat, India was prompted by Lord Atlee, the prime minister of U.K., to take the case of the aggression by Pakistan in Kashmir to the United Nations, and in April 1948, India then sought the intervention of the United Nations (UN). (Sazawal, 2021) The UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 which required Pakistan to first withdraw all its military personnel and “tribesmen” from the state as a necessary precondition to holding a plebiscite. (Subbiah, 2004) In August 1948, however, the UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) found that Pakistan had instead increased its military presence in Kashmir. (Subbiah, 2004)

After a ceasefire in January 1949, Pakistan remained in control of approximately one-third of the state while the remaining two-thirds were incorporated into India under Article 370 of India’s Constitution, which along with Article 35A defining residential and property rights, granted a special status to the state.  Specifically, it restricted the Indian Parliament’s legislative power over Jammu and Kashmir to defense, foreign affairs, and communications, and it also placed a restriction on people moving from other parts of India to the state. (Fotedar et al., 2002)

Subsequently, local elections were held in Indian Kashmir in 1951 where the Muslim led National Conference won a resounding victory.  And in 1956, the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly voted to approve the merger of Kashmir with India via the Instrument of Accession. (Ganguly, 1998)

China then took control over 16,500 sq. miles of Kashmir by occupying Indian territory during the 1962 Indo-China War and through a boundary agreement with Pakistan in 1963.

Ethnic Cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits

Starting in 1984, political leaders in the state, such as Ghulam Mohammad Shah, began inciting Muslims, claiming that Islam was in danger. This led to violent riots targeting Kashmiri Pandits in South Kashmir and Sopore, where Hindus were killed, and several temples and properties were destroyed. Subsequent anti-Hindu riots in Anantnag in 1986 resulted in the destruction of several Kashmiri Hindu homes and properties and the flight of many Hindu families out of the Valley. (EurAsian Times, 2017)

The anti-Hindu violence culminated in the events of 1989-1990, when more than 350,000 Kashmiri Hindu Pandits (95% of the Valley’s Hindu population) were ethnically cleansed from the Valley by Muslim extremists. The forced displacement was accompanied by a campaign of violence and destruction in the Valley.  (Ramachandran, 2020; Rao, 2019, ) Kashmiri Pandit groups estimate that since 1989, nearly 105 educational institutions run by Kashmiri Hindus have been burned down or destroyed, hundreds of temples and religious sites damaged or demolished, 14,430 businesses and shops destroyed, and more than 20,000 Kashmiri Hindu homes destroyed, looted, or occupied. (Kashmir News Network, n.d.)

According to official statistics from the state government, 208 Hindu temples have been destroyed or damaged since the start of the violence in 1989.  Other estimates assert that the numbers are much higher. A recent survey of Hindu shrines in Kashmir found that 347 Hindu religious sites were destroyed or damaged, while another organization asserts that 550 temples were destroyed or damaged. (Ashiq, 2012; State Times, 2015)

Selective killings, aimed at intimidating the community and forcing them to leave, led to the murder of over 1,100 Kashmiri Pandits, according to Pandit groups. (Kashmir News Network, n.d.) While India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) stopped short of calling the cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus a genocide, they observed that the crimes amounted to near genocide.  (Sharma, 2014)

The violent campaign targeting Hindus in Kashmir was organized and systematic, and included massacres, rape, threats, and intimidation.  Public announcements were placed in newspapers, sermons made in mosques, and posters hung on houses ordering all Kashmiri Hindus to leave the Valley, threatening violence if they did not and calling on Muslims to take up jihad against non-Muslims. (Gill, 2003; Gupta, 2005; Tikoo, 2012) Letters were sent to Pandit homes stating, ‘We order you to leave Kashmir immediately, otherwise your children will be harmed — we are not scaring you but this land is only for Muslims, and is the land of Allah. Sikhs and Hindus cannot stay here.’ The threatening note ended with a warning, ‘If you do not obey, we will start with your children. Kashmir Liberation, Zindabad.’” (Tikoo, 2012)

Similarly, according to American journalist Hillary Brenhouse, Kashmiri Pandits became easy targets for Islamist militants, and “[a]nti-Hindu rhetoric was broadcast at weekly prayers, [while] dozens were murdered.” (Brenhouse, 2013) A common threat to Hindus broadcast from the mosques was “Ralive, tsalive, ya galive” (convert to Islam, leave, or die). (Tikoo, 2012)

In addition, mobs of tens of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims took to the streets chanting slogans, including death to Kafirs (non-Muslims or non-believers), and “Kashmir banawon Pakistan, Bataw varaie, Batneiw saan” (“We will turn Kashmir into Pakistan, with Kashmiri Hindu women, but without their men”). (Gigoo & Sharma, 2015) Similarly, armed members of militant groups marched publicly to intimidate the Pandit community. (Brenhouse, 2013) Noted journalist Rahul Pandita asserted that along with Islamists, many ordinary Kashmiri Muslims participated in the ethnic cleansing of the Pandits.  (Raina, 2013)

One elderly Kashmiri Hindu recounted, “Our people were killed. I saw a girl tortured with cigarette butts. Another man had his eyes pulled out and his body hung on a tree. The armed separatists used a chainsaw to cut our bodies into pieces…” (Sharma, n.d.)

In order to accommodate the large numbers of Hindus fleeing the Valley, the Indian government set up semi-permanent camps for the displaced in Jammu and New Delhi. (Thelwell, 2020) Despite being forcibly displaced from the Kashmir Valley, Kashmiri Pandits continue to be labeled as “migrants” by the Indian government, instead of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The term “migrant” is problematic as it implies that Hindus left Kashmir of their own volition rather than being forced to flee due to violence, threats, and intimidation.

Pakistan’s Proxy War in Kashmir

Starting in 1989, Islamic terrorism, funded and supported by Pakistan’s military and powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, engulfed the Kashmir Valley.   Although the violence initially targeted Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, Pakistan sponsored Islamic militants expanded their operations to attack Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim civilians throughout the state, in violation of UN Covenants governing terrorism. (University of Minnesota Human Rights Library, 2001, 2002)

According to South Asia scholar and former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, the ISI supported jihad in Kashmir as an instrument of state policy and the violence was “rooted in the ideology of Pakistani Islamists, carefully nurtured for decades by the Pakistani military.” (Haqqani, 2005) Pakistan sponsored terror groups active in Kashmir, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizb-ul Mujahideen (HM) (militant wing of the Islamist organisation Jamaat-e-Islami) and JeM, have been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. State Department, and enjoy links with the broader terror network in South Asia, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. (CISAC, n.d.; CIA, n.d.; U.S. Department of State, n.d.)

LeT gained international notoriety for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, and JeM has been resoponsible for several high-profile attacks, including an attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, the kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, and the Pulwama suicide bombing in 2019. Following the Pulwama attack, India launched retaliatory airstrikes on a JeM terror camp in Pakistan, (Arqam & Miglani, 2019) and the UN Security Council designated JeM founder Masood Azhar as an international terrorist. (UN Security Council, 2019) Notably, the suicide bomber made a video prior to his attack, making anti-Hindu statements, including referring to Hindus as “cow urine drinkers” and exorting Muslims to make Hindus bow to Islam. (Sharma, 2019) The flags of groups such as JeM are often prominently displayed at “protests” in Kashmir. (Swami, 2019)

The Pakistan sponsored insurgency included plans to complete a “communal cleansing” of Kashmir by attacking non-Muslim indigenous Kashmiris, in order to change the demographics and create a minority free Kashmir. (Haqqani, 2005) Between 1988 and 2003, for instance, approximately 1,490 Hindus were killed across the state (including Kashmiri Pandits and other Hindu civilians), although some estimate that the numbers are much higher. (SATP, 2003) Moreover, there were several subsequent attacks and massacres of Hindus throughout the state. The abduction and rape of both Hindu and Muslim women was also a common tactic used by terrorist groups during the early years of militancy. (SATP, 2004) Nearly 15,000 civilians have been killed in militant related violence in Kashmir. (SATP, 2019) It should be noted that the Indian army and state police have also committed abuses.

Militant violence reached its peak in 2001, and then drastically declined in subsequent years, leading to an upsurge in tourism, which brought an estimated 1.5 million tourists to Kashmir in 2012 alone. At the same time, support for the insurgency started waning, as voter participation in panchayat (village councils) and statewide elections significantly increased. Many former militants were rehabilitated and reintegrated into society, with some entering politics, such as Farooq Ahmed Dar, known as Bitta Karate or the “Butcher of Pandits”. (Hassan, 2006; SATP, 2012; SATP, 2019) Throughout the period, Pakistan continued to foment violence in the state and launch cross-border attacks.

In 2016, unrest in the Kashmir Valley was sparked by the death of HM commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in a gunbattle with Indian security forces. Over 11,000 people were injured (7,000 civilians and 4,000 security personnel) and 82 people killed in clashes between protesters, led by separatist groups, and Indian security forces. (PTI, September 19, 2016; Tribune India, 2016)

During the unrest, rampaging mobs also attacked Kashmiri Pandit migrant camps in six cities in the Valley: Vessu, Mattan, Nutnasu, Baramulla, Haal, and Sheikhpora. At the Haal camp, Muslim villagers surrounded the camp from three sides and continuously threw heavy stones, while attempting to break into the camp. Along with the targeted attacks, public threats and posters also appeared warning Pandits to leave the Valley or “face death”. These incidents caused significant fear amongst the Pandits in the Valley and led 1,600 Pandits employed by the government to flee for the safety of Jammu and refuse to return. (Hakhoo, 2016; PTI, 2016; Rashid, 2016)

In addition to direct involvement in the militancy, Pakistan has actively waged a propaganda war on the Kashmir issue in an attempt to manipulate U.S. and international policy makers.  The executive director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, for instance, was convicted of engaging in illegal lobbying activities on behalf of Pakistan’s ISI and served two years in prison. He was also sought by the Indian government for his connection to militancy in the state. (ul-Hassan, 2012) Fai is active once again in promoting Kashmiri separatism and providing moral support and justification for Islamist terrorism, consistent with Pakistan’s agenda.

Furthermore, following the abrogation of Article 370, a number of new groups appeared, such as Stand With Kashmir, launching sophisticated social media and lobbying campaigns in the U.S. that normalized violence, terrorism, and Islamist radicalism. Stand With Kashmir reportedly has links with JeI affiliate, Islamic Circle of North America, and has spoken in support of terrorists from Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, amongst others. (Lee, 2020)

Status of Human Rights, 2019-2020

Post-Abrogation Conditions

Given the credible threats posed by separatist and terrorist groups in the Kashmir Valley following the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, the Indian government imposed communications blackouts to prevent widespread violence and the loss of innocent civilian life. The government’s actions in particular were aimed to avoid the type of violent riots that resulted in 82 deaths and injured over 11,000 people in 2016, following the death of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. (IANS, 2016; PTI, 2016) After the initial blackouts, communications were slowly restored in subsequent months. (Ganapathy, 2019)

Furthermore, a number of separatist politicians and other political leaders were put in preventative custody or house arrest to prevent them from instigating violence as they had in the past, including in 2016.  Most who were placed under house arrest have since been released, and subsequent investigations revealed that they were not interrogated, tortured, or mistreated in any way, and were allowed to meet with their families. (Pandya, 2021)

During the blackouts, most public institutions remained opened.  Access to them, however, was difficult, if not impossible, as a result of threats of violence and curfews imposed by terrorist organizations such as LeT and JeM. These groups also attacked shopkeepers and apple traders for carrying out their businesses and refusing to comply with their imposed shutdowns, including a truck driver who was beaten by a mob before being killed execution style (Bukhari, 2019; Yasir & Gettleman, 2019)

Residents in Jammu and Ladakh were overwhelmingly happy with the abrogation of Article 370, while there were mixed feelings amongst the population in the Kashmir Valley. For the people of Ladakh, the removal of Article 370 and reorganization of the state fulfilled a long-held demand for separate Union Territory Status, due to social, economic, and political marginalization. (Handa, 2019) In 2018, the Ladakh Autonomous Development Hill Council, representing Buddhists, Shia Muslims, and Hindus in the districts of Leh and Kargil, unanimously passed a resolution demanding “complete autonomy from Kashmir’s administrative setup.” (Iqbal, 2018)

While some Kashmiris were upset by the abrogation, many accepted it and were focused in moving forward with the hope of improved governance, accountability, economic development, and a robust political process. (Pandya, 2021) In addition, the move has been widely welcomed and brought increased legal rights for Kashmiri Pandits and other disenfranchised groups, such as Dalits from the Valmiki community (10,000 people)  and refugees from West Pakistan (approximately 20,000 families), who sought refuge in Jammu in 1947. (Majid, 2020; Pandit, 2019) By September 2020, domicile certificates were issued to 11,398 refugees from West Pakistan, 415 members of the Valmiki community, and 12,340 registered Kashmiri Pandit IDPs. (Hussain, 2020)

Soon after the abrogation, local elections were held in the former state. In late 2019, Local Block Development Council elections in Jammu, Kashmir, Leh, and Ladakh saw high voter turnout rates (Hassan, 2019), while District Development Council elections successfully concluded in Jammu and Kashmir on December 22, 2020. (PTI, 2020) Refugees from West Pakistan along with the Valmiki community, were allowed to vote for the first time in the district elections. (Majid, 2020)

Extremism/Terrorist Violence

The spread of Wahhabi ideology facilitated by local political parties – National Conference and People’s Democractic Party – has undermined the traditional Sufi form of Islam practiced in Kashmir. It has also led to attempts to impose edicts and rules that suppress free speech, women’s rights, and minority rights. Saudi Wahhabi funded groups have tried to segregate men and women and end coed education, restrict the use of social media, and shut down movie theaters and music programs. (Sazawal, 2012) Moreover, JeI, a trans-national radical Islamist organization and ideological and recruiting base for HM, has increased its power and influence in the Kashmir Valley in recent years through its local branch JeI (J-K). JeI (J-K)’s influence has led to an increase in recruitment of local Kashmiri Muslim youth in the ranks of HM and other terror groups. (Pandya, 2021) It was recently banned by the Government of India for its support of HM, its connection to the United Jihad Council in Pakistan, and incitement of violence and attempt to create an Islamic State in Kashmir. (PTI, September 2, 2019)

At the same time, terrorist violence has declined since 2018 with a significant drop following the abrogation of Article 370. There were 452 fatalities in 205 terror incidents in 2018, and only 283 fatalities in 135 incidents in 2019, many of which resulted from the Pulwama attack.  As a result, 72 companies (or units) of the Central Armed Police Forces were withdrawn from Jammu & Kashmir on December 23, 2019. Fatalities continued to remain low in 2020 with only 139 deaths. (SATP, 2021)

Temples, religious sites, and pilgrimages have also been the frequent targets of terrorist groups  in Jammu and Kashmir. In March and November 2002, there were high profile attacks on the Ragunath Hindu temple in Jammu, each time killing at least ten people. (Waldman, 2002)  Similarly, between 2000 and 2017, there were a series of terrorist attacks on Hindu pilgrims visiting Amarnath shrine in the Kashmir Valley that killed at least 64 people and injured more than 110. There have been several additional threats on Amarnath, as recently as August 2019. (Deccan Herald, 2019)

In addition, those Pandits that returned to the Valley under rehabilitation plans in the past few years have been unable to live openly and practice their religion freely without harassment and threats by extremists. Migrant transitional camps, for instance, have been repeatedly pelted with stones, particularly during Hindu religious festivals, according to Kashmiri Pandit sources. These transitional camps had been set up for the approximately 2,000 Pandits that returned to the Valley under a government rehabilitation plan. Many of the Pandits that returned under the previous government plan live in “ghetto-like camps” under constant police protection and rarely leave the camps. (Pandita, 2013) According to information received from Kashmiri Pandit groups, at least seven Kashmir Hindus have converted to Islam after accepting employment packages to return to Kashmir (mostly women).

Although violence and terror attacks have significantly gone down following the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, there have been a number of targeted killings of both Hindus and Muslims since then, including:

  • October 2020 — Three Muslim workers for the Bharitiya Janata Party (BJP) (the ruling political party in India), Fida Hussain, Umer Hajam and Umer Rashid Beigh, were killed by militants in Kulgam district. (Swarajya, 2020)
  • July 2020 — Muslim political leader from the BJP, Sheikh Wasim Bari and his father and brother, were gunned down by militants outside their home in Bandipora. (Akhzer, 2020)
  • June 2020 — Ajay Pandita, the only Hindu elected to office in the Kashmir Valley, was shot dead by terrorists from the new LeT front group, The Resistance Front. (IANS, 2020)
  • October 2019 — 5 laborers from West Bengal were shot and killed by militants in Shopian. (PTI, 2021)
  • August 2019 — Militants shot a five year old Muslim girl, Asma Jaan, in the leg to send a message to her family for defying the LeT imposed curfew order. (Yasir & Gettleman, 2019)

Current Conditions Facing Displaced Pandits

There are 62,000 total displaced Kashmiri families (the vast majority of whom are Pandits, with small numbers of Sikhs and Muslims), of which 40,000 are in Jammu; 20,000 in Delhi, and 2,000 in other parts of the country. (Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, 2016)

Along with their physical displacement, the Kashmiri Pandits and refugees from PoK were systematically disenfranchised, prevented from voting, and deprived of a political voice. Access to voting has recently been expanded for displaced Pandits. (Daily Excelsior, 2014) Additionally, the Pandits lost all rights to the properties they left behind when they fled the Valley. And in spite of the recent abrogation of Article 370 and increased rights for Kashmiri Pandits, recovering their lost properties will prove difficult.

Although the central government has provided financial assistance, as well as educational and employment quotas to the displaced Pandits, they still face several challenges, including inhumane camp conditions and difficulty in finding employment opportunities. These camps are overcrowded and lack adequate facilities and basic necessities. (Thelwell, 2020) There is no regular supply of clean drinking water, a shortage of medicine, and poor sanitation. As a result of the substandard conditions, many Kashmiri Pandits have serious health problems, including high incidence of disease, psychological traumas, stress-related problems, and a high death rate. (Thelwell, 2020)

A 2014 study examining the socio-economic conditions facing displaced Pandits in both camp (Nagrota) and non-camp (Durga Nagar) areas of Jammu district found that 78.57 percent of the households interviewed endured some type of health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and jaundice.  And specifically in the Nagrota camp, 82.85 percent of those surveyed faced health issues. (Raj et al., 2014) Moreover, the study indicated that adult camp residents lack employment opportunities, while the children face difficulties accessing schools. (Raj et al., 2014)

In addition to Pandits from the Valley, thousands of Hindus from remote mountainous villages in Jammu have been displaced by Islamist violence and forced to live in miserable conditions in overcrowded camps near larger cities.

Pandit leaders have traditionally been weary of rehabilitation plans as they have failed to adequately involve community members in discussions on resettlement and they remain skeptical of the government’s ability to protect Hindus upon their return. This is due in part to the ongoing threats from terrorist groups and the fear and insecurity Pandits who returned to the Valley continue to face. At the same time, many Kashmiri Pandits have applied for 2,000 open government jobs allocated for them under a government rehabilitation package. (Swarajya, 2021)

Conclusion and Recommendations

More than 30 years after Pakistani sponsored militants launched a violent terrorist movement in the Kashmir Valley, the security and safety of ordinary Kashmiris remains a concern. While there has been a drastic decline in militant violence following the abrogation of Article 370, as long as the Pakistani military is unwilling to give up its policy of utilizing terror groups to foment violence in Indian Kashmir, violence will continue in the state for the foreseeable future.

Moreover, Kashmiri Pandits, thousands of whom continue to live in decrepit refugee camps, are optimistic about the future, but remain concerned about security and integration if they return to the Kashmir Valley.

Whether living in camps or elsewhere in the state, the Pandits and other Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists face economic, political, and social marginalization. Additionally, many Hindu shrines and temples in the Valley remain unprotected, many of which have been illegally encroached upon or have fallen into disrepair.

Consequently, HAF offers the following recommendations for the Government of India and the international community.

Recommendations to the Government of India

  • Officially recognize Kashmiri Pandits as Internally Displaced Persons to acknowledge their historical experience and provide them with their rights and protections under international law.
  • The government should improve basic conditions for Pandits living in camps in Jammu and New Delhi.
  • In order to facilitate the return of those members of the indigenous Hindu population of Kashmir who wish to resettle, a task force or advisory council from the community should be established under the auspices of the Ministry of Home Affairs. This body would bring together respected Kashmiri Pandit community leaders, subject matter experts, and key stakeholders both in India and abroad to advise and help in the development of a comprehensive plan to repatriate and reintegrate Kashmiri Pandits to the region. It would be tasked with developing plans for surveys of displaced and diasporic members of the community, needs assessment, feasibility studies, exploration of legal remedies, and any other necessary steps to ensure a clear pathway to a safe, secure, dignified, and sustainable return to the Valley.
  • The state government must provide for the protection of vulnerable Hindu shrines and allow Kashmiri Pandits to control their religious sites in the Valley.  It must further provide full protection and accommodation to Hindu pilgrims visiting shrines in the state.
  • Focus on improving governance, development, political empowerment, and security.

Recommendations to the International Community

The Kashmir issue is an internal Indian matter and is between the Indian government and its citizens in the Union Territory.  U.S. policy makers and the international community must exert economic and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to end its use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, leveraging the large amount of financial assistance provided to the country. The U.S. government should fully support India’s internal sovereign decisions on Kashmir.  It should also support the human rights of the ethnically cleansed Kashmiri Hindu population and other Kashmiris who have been victimized by Pakistani sponsored terror groups.

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Indian Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir

Area
The former Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two Union Territories in 2019: Jammu and Kashmir (16,309 square miles) and Ladakh (22,836 square miles). China occupies an additional 16,500 sq. miles, while Pakistan occupies 30,159 sq. miles.

Population
Jammu and Kashmir: 12,267,013; Ladakh: 274,289. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (including Gilgit-Baltistan) has an estimated population of 6 million people.

Religions
Jammu and Kashmir: Muslim (67.5%);
Hindus (29.6%), Other (2.9%).
Ladakh: Muslim (46.4%)
Buddhist (39.76%)
Hindu (12.1%)
Other (1.74%).
Many displaced Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir live in other parts of India and there are no Hindus left in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Languages
Kashmiri, Urdu, Gojri, Dadri, Dogri, Pahari, Balti, Ladakhi, Punjabi

Location
Northern India, bordered by Pakistan on the west and China on the east.

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