October 4,


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Lalit Koul

Mr President, it is time to visit Mishriwalla

An open letter to President Kalam

Mr President, before I let you know where Mishriwalla is and why it is time for you to plan a visit there, let me first congratulate you on becoming India’s 11th President. This is truly an achievement. You have proven, by sheer hard work and perseverance, that anybody in this land of sadhus and rishis can achieve his/her goals.

You have also proven all those India-bashing critics -- who claim that in this so-called Hindu India, minorities (read Muslims) have it very tough -- wrong. These critics have lost their case and cause (this is their only cause for living). Your election to the highest office of the land is a testimony to India’s fairness in its treatment of its minorities (read Muslims).

By no means, I wish to suggest that you were elected because you are a Muslim by birth. You deserved it purely based on your own highly commendable credentials. But your election does dismiss the myth that minorities (read Muslims) in India are subjected to discrimination and are at the mercy of the majority (read Hindus). It is not just your election. It is your actions as well that convey the spirit of India, the nation that has embraced people of every faith without any discrimination.

Your visit to Gujarat to soothe the wounds of Muslim victims of the recent communal riots was noteworthy. The visit must have definitely pacified some sections of society. It must have displayed the compassion you carry for the downtrodden and the victims. And that is very very necessary for the victims to recuperate.

You also visited the victims of the Union Carbide Gas leak tragedy in Bhopal. This was another visit worth the effort.

Now let me come to the point of Mishriwalla. I am not entirely sure if you even know where Mishriwalla is. Thus to explain why it is time to visit Mishriwalla, I would like to give you some background.

In the days leading up to January 19, 1990, Islamic terrorists in the Kashmir valley engaged in the worst kind of ethnic cleansing by killing, raping, maiming and butchering Hindu men, women, children, young and old. The victims' only fault was that they believed in the Hindu way of life and in India. They believed in the Indian tricolor. Most of these victims were Kashmiri Hindus. Unlike in the Gujarat riots, Kashmiri Hindus did not retaliate. They did not retaliate because they did not and do not believe in raping women and killing children. They believed and still believe in the Indian Constitution, whose supreme protector is the President of India -- you, Mr President.

All these innocent victims of the modern day holocaust, escaped from the merciless killing by heading southward towards other parts of India, hoping that the rest of India will come to their rescue and will embrace them. While the general public embraced them and gave them shelter, their fundamental rights to basic security and dignity were trampled upon. For 13 long years these victims have lived like refugees in their own country -- in despicable conditions, in various refugee camps set up around Jammu and Delhi.

One of these refugee camps is in Mishriwalla, a small town on the outskirts of the city of Jammu.

It is shameful that in these past years, no public servants, those who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of India, have cared to visit these victims and fight for their cause. While everybody from top to bottom, including you Mr President, has visited Muslim refugee camps in Gujarat, nobody has ever paid any attention to the Kashmiri Hindu refugees.

Why is it so? Is it because 700,000 plus Kashmiri Hindus do not make a big vote bank? Is it because Kashmiri Hindus have already pledged their allegiance to India and thus can be taken for granted? Is it because Kashmiri Hindus do not play the card of azaadi? Or is it because Kashmiri Hindus are not Muslims?

Since your position is nonpolitical and you have the power to influence public policy, I am hoping you will rise to the occasion and not just play to the galleries. I am hoping that you will not make any distinction between Hindu victims and Muslim victims.

Since you did not waste any time in visiting Gujarat, I am sure you can make some time for Mishriwalla as well. You have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of India and protect the fundamental rights of all those who believe in the Indian Constitution. And that is exactly what Kashmiri Hindus do. But the sad fact is that in spite of their sacrifices and their unflinching commitment towards India, it is these victims who have been denied their fundamental rights. After 13 years in these unbearable camps, they cannot even exercise their right to franchise. There is no bigger tragedy than losing the right to vote in a democracy like India.

Mr President, you have already visited Muslim victims in Gujarat. Now it is time for you to visit Mishriwalla and fight for the victims of the worst ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Islamic terrorists. One more reason you should visit Mishriwalla is because you are above politics and petty communalism, unlike the so-called people's representatives who have shown total apathy towards the plight of Kashmiri Hindus. If your secular and moral credentials are to remain intact, you must urgently bring to the notice of sleeping politicians, the festering sore of Kashmiri Hindu camps in Jammu and elsewhere.

And please bear in mind that these Kashmiri Hindu victims have pledged their unmitigated allegiance to India and its Constitution. For today, tomorrow and forever.

Lalit Koul
Mansfield, MA, USA

Lalit Koul is a member of the US-based Kashmir News Network and editor of a monthly journal Kashmir Herald


The Presidential Election
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