On Saturday 14th September, at the Zoroastrian Centre, the Kashmiri Pandit Cultural Society (KPCS) commemorated the 30th anniversary of the mass extermination of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The event marked the death of Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, the first Hindu Pandit to be shot dead by armed men outside his residence in 1989. His death was followed by the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, many who settled in the UK and have been living in exile ever since.
The event was attended by High Commission of India to the UK, Her Excellency Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam and Conservative MP for Harrow East Bob Blackman among other councillors and members of the Indian diaspora. The event began with a traditional lamp lighting ceremony by the Her Excellency Mrs Ghanashyam followed by a short speech where she addressed the concerns of the Indian Hindu diaspora in the UK. She highlighted the action taken with regards to the recent attacks on the High Commission of India in London and also officially launched the book Resilience. The book is a collation of first person anecdotes of the trauma that Kashmiri pandits survived when they were driven out of their homes.
Addressing the gathering Blackman hailed his support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's revocation of Article 370 and called on Pakistan to leave Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. He also countered the Pakistani government's plan to move a United Nations resolution emphasising that India has a sovereign right over the entire region.
"The entirety of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is part of sovereign India, and people who ask for UN resolution to be implemented ignore the first resolution, which is that Pakistani military forces should leave Kashmir to re-unite the state," said Bob Blackman.
There were various cultural activities organised for the event including a Bharatnatyam dance performance by the students of Kalasagara UK and trained under Guru Usha Raghavan. However, the most powerful segment of the event that summarised the journey of the Kashmiri Pandits was the theatre production, “We Remember”: Story of Kashmiri Pandits. Written by founder of KPCS Lakshmi Kaul and directed by Kashmiri Hindu Aarushi Thakur Rana, all the performers of the drama were Kashmiri Pandit children and parents. The drama delved deep into history going back to the 14th century ruler of Kashmir and narrating the story of the Last Queen of Kashmir, Kota Rani.
Following the drama, the programme 'We Remember' is a project undertaken by KPCS to connect children and young people to their roots by assisting them in chronicling their family heritage. In doing so, it documents the stories of each family whether by first person accounts or by visual documentation of timeline of addresses lived at by children for their families.
“A powerful performance by all the children in the play and appreciate your commitment and support Bob Blackman,” Her Excellency Mrs. Ghanashyam tweeted.
A special keynote speech was delivered by Col Tej K Tikoo, President of All India Kashmiri Samaj and an expert of Kashmir Affairs. In his speech, he spoke about Kashmir, its aborigines, exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits and the revocation of article 370. Kashmiri special cuisine was also served for lunch and was provided by Phirsaal Caterers UK Ltd.
Indian lady heckled in Birmingham
In the meantime, an elderly Indian lady was heckled by a Pakistani man in Birmingham. She was told that she is not allowed in Birmingham and Jammu and Kashmir and he will personally fight India.
Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after New Delhi ended Jammu and Kashmir's special status on August 5 and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.