An organisation called the Indo-European Kashmir Forum (IEKF) has been vocal in its support of the central government’s move to virtually abrogate Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution last week. The IEKF, which is based in London and Geneva, hailed the decision in Jammu and Kashmir as a decisive step to bring justice to Kashmiri Pandits, who were driven out of their ancestral homes and lands in 1989-90.
IEKF is one of several groups that have been active in Western countries, advocating the cause of Kashmiri religious minorities, especially Hindus. Among the others are the Indo-Canadian Kashmir Forum (ICKF) based in Ottawa, Canada, and the US-based Indo-American Kashmir Forum. The Kashmiri Pandit advocacies in some places work alongside overseas Hindu groups such as the Hindu-American Foundation, and the World Hindu Council of America.
The IEKF and some other groups intend to hold demonstrations to counter the protests that have been planned by certain Kashmiri groups outside the Indian High Commission in London on August 15. The UK is home to significant numbers of Indians from Kashmir, both Hindu Pandits and Muslims.
The IEKF describes itself on its website as “the voice of the Kashmiri Hindus in India and in the Kashmir Valley”. The group is affiliated with the UK Hindu Council, which was formed in 1994 to give Hindus based in the UK representation and leverage in policy matters in Britain. The IEKF’s formation roughly coincided with the emergence of militancy in Kashmir and the beginning of the forced and unforced exodus of the Pandits.
The IEKF says it “highlights the plight of Kashmiri Hindus who have become victims of terrorism (and) investigates violations of the human rights of Kashmiri Hindus at the hands of terrorist organisations”.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 10, Krishna Bhan, president of the IEKF, had “appeal(ed) to the Government of India and to the authorities in the State J&K to revoke Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir State”. Article 370, the letter said, was “the biggest hindrance in the way of integration of J&K with the rest of India and peace in the region”.
After India’s government and Parliament moved to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and removal of Article 370, PTI quoted Bhan as saying “This is a historic day. We are over the moon. We have waited for this day for a long time and are overjoyed that the day has finally arrived.”
The Forum’s ultimate aim is the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley.