he Indo-American Kashmir Forum, commonly known as IAKF, was formed in 1991. IAKF represents the socio-political voice of the Kashmiri Pandit community residing in the United States. The Kashmiri Pandits, followers of the Shaivite branch of the Hindu religion, are aboriginal people of the Kashmir valley with nearly 5,000 year history much of which is well documented through archeological discoveries and written records. Following the march of Islam into Kashmir in the 14th Century, the followers of the Hindu faith were reduced to a minority. Repeated intrusions by foreign settlers during the Islamic rule led to further dwindling of Pandit population in Kashmir. By 1947, when the British rule ended in the Indian subcontinent, the Pandits in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir had been reduced to a miniscule minority. In the post-independence period, even though some Kashmiri Pandits rose to eminence in state and central governments, most Pandits continued to suffer economically and politically resulting in their steady migration from the valley to other parts of the world. By mid-1980’s Pandit population in Kashmir was reduced to about 4% of the total population in the valley.
IAKF was created after many expatriate Pandits received reports from their relatives in Kashmir about the growing Islamic insurgency in the state which was turning increasingly violent. Many Kashmiri Pandits were systematically victimized by Islamic terrorists, who were recruited, armed and trained in neighboring Islamic countries. Brutalities against the peaceful Pandit community were exceptionally cruel and lacking adequate safety and protection of the state, they were forced to flee from their homes and hearths. The forced exodus led to internal displacement of over 350,000 Pandits from their ancestral lands. The internally displaced Pandits represent over 95% of their original total population in the valley in 1990.
IAKF took up the cause to inform the world community of the oppression against Kashmiri Pandits that led to their forced exile from Kashmir and about the sad plight of the community members, many of whom are still living in makeshift ‘refugee’ camps. The poor condition of Pandits who stayed in the valley and did not leave during peak periods of violence is an untold story as they have been denied their social, economic and human rights by a hegemonic majority and the state government that are indifferent to their plight and needs. The U.S. based organization advocates assistance to the miniscule Pandit community in the valley, and seeks the return of displaced Pandits to Kashmir with dignity and honor.
IAKF interacts with the U.S. Administration, the U.S. Congress, think tanks and universities specializing in South Asian affairs, individual policy specialists, and media. IAKF works in conjunction with several different organizations abroad, including its sister organizations, the Indo-Canadian Kashmir Forum (ICKF) and the Indo-European Kashmir Forum (IEKF).
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