Every year, Kashmiri Hindus observe September 14 as our Balidan Divas. This year the Global Kashmiri Hindu Community organized “BALIDAN DIVAS Webinar” on Sunday, September 13, 2020 through Zoom with live streaming on Facebook. Thousands of people participated in the program to commemorate martyrdom of Pandits & and the members of Indian security forces. This program was organized by Panun Kashmir organization and was supported by World Hindu Council of America (VHPA), Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective (HinduPACT) and Hindu Media Bureau (HMB). The topic aptly chosen was, “Smriti aur Sankalp – Remembrance & Reaffirmation.”
The program began with offering shradanjali homage to the departed. The webinar was moderated by Mr. Sanjay Kaul, Vice President, World Hindu Council of America (VHPA). In his opening remarks, Mr Kaul said, “It started with the murder of our great leader Pandit Tika Lal Taploo who fell to the bullets of militants of JKLF outside his home on September 13. This was followed by thousands of individual killings and massacres including Sangrampura Massacre; Gool Massacre; Wandhama Massacre; Telwani Massacre; Nadimarg Massacre etc. In Kashmir, it has been a continuous campaign against the minority Hindu community, early this year, we witnessed the brutal killing of Ajay Pandita Bharti. His crime was that he was a Hindu who went back to Kashmir valley to serve the people there.
Dr. Shakun Malik, President, Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA) USA welcomed all speakers and the audiences to the program. In her keynote address she said that hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits were killed by terrorists in Kashmir during militancy. We pay tribute to all those nationalist people and members of the security forces who sacrificed their lives while fighting terrorism in the state.
Mr. Sanjay Kaul, invited each panelist to share his or her insights and views on the topic. Firstly, Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman, Panun Kashmir, a political movement of Kashmiri Pandits founded as a result of the forced exodus and genocide of Hindus in Kashmir, in 1990s. Dr Chrungoo gavea historical context of J&K State and set the agenda in the context of Hindu genocide in Kashmir. Hesaid that Balidan Divas is observed by Kashmiri Pandits since 1990 to commemorate martyrdom of Pandits. He described horrific stories of torture & killings meted out to his community and then shared the aspirations of the Hindu community with the audiences. Next panelist Padma Bhushan Prof. Ved Nanda, Sanghchalak of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) North America stated that Martyrs day is observed as the day to protest the ruthless killing of Pandits by the terrorists as a mark of remembrance and reaffirmation. As an authority on International Law, he focused on describing the process to get Internally Displaced Person status for Kashmiri Hindus while waiting for a permanent solution? And closed his remarks by reaffirming the vision of Kashmiri Hindus to be settled back in a territory of their own as allowed by the constitution where they could practice political, economic, religious and cultural freedom.
The third panelist, Mr. Sushil Pandit, Founder, Roots in Kashmir (RIK) enunciated that during the disturbing phase, many women were raped, 1,500 Kashmiri Pandits and 5,000 security personnel were murdered, and more than 5 lakh people were thrown out of their homes. He also said that around 50,000 Kashmiri Pandits lost their lives due to starvation and devastation. Mr. Pandit being a scholar of history and a political commentator shared his impressions on the developments that have taken place post abrogation of Articles 370 & 35A and shared his opinion on where it will lead us.
The next panelist, Mr. Utsav Chakrabarti, Executive Director, Hindu Policy Analysis & Advocacy Collective (Hindu PACT) narrated some horrifying situations and how people left the valley due to the mass genocide and said that we remember those days and pay homage to all the people who lost their lives to the bullets of the Islamic terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. As a person who has been very active in Washington DC power circles for last 20 years, Mr. Charabarti spoke about his experience in terms of representation of the Kashmir issue in the US political space. He was thankful to Kashmiri Hindu diaspora for distributing information on Kashmir conflict and sharing a true narrative on what actually happened there.
The next panelist, Smt. Lakshmi Kaul, Founder, Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society (KPCS) talked about the nature and extent of the cultural loss suffered by the displaced Kashmiris as a result of the destructions by the terrorists. The exiled Kashmiris are not yet able to revive their language, literature, art music, and dance. She shared the concerns of the Hindu community and talked about how the Hindu diaspora could be mobilized to support the cause of Kashmiri Hindus.
The next panelist, Shri Shambhav Sharma, Creator & Host of “The Sham Sharma Show” narrated how the terrorists brutally devastated the Valley, once regarded a paradise on this earth, and hounded its original residents, the Kashmiri Pandits, out of their homes. Being media person who is in direct contact with ethnic Indian audience, Mr. Sharma spoke about how to engage Hindu diaspora, especially youth and young adults. He focused on the challenges, difficulties and hot button issues.
The final panelist was a teenager Sagar Koul. Sagar a second generation Kashmiri Hindu born and bough up in the USA, spoke about how he related to his parent’s passion for Kashmir as their homeland. He spoke about his interest to get involved in this struggle and a desire to be able to go to Kashmir at will.
In the last 30 minutes, audiences’ questions were answered by the panelists very methodically. Some audiences used Zoom chat or Facebook comments options to ask their questions. One of the participants said that this Zoom webinar was very informative and educational as she obtained the factual data from the primary sources and true-life stories.
At the end, Mr. Sanjay Kaul thanked all the panelists for their presentations and the audiences for their active participation in the program.