Intervention in the Second Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council held in Geneva
Vijay K. Sazawal, Ph.D.
27 September 2006
Intervention by the author on Agenda Item 2 dealing with global poverty during the Second Session of the Human Rights Council Session (18 September 2006 – 6 October 2006).
The work done by Mr. Arjun Sengupta is very important and deserves full support of the Council. However, the definition of poverty goes beyond the realm of economic deprivation. As the Secretary-General himself has noted, poverty is not only deprivation of economic or material resources but a violation of human dignity too.
You may recall that in the Resolution 1998/25, the Commission on Human Rights noted that eradication of poverty was inter-related with full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights of disfranchised people around the world.
A case in point is the fate of Kashmiri Pandits, the aboriginal people of the valley of Kashmir. Once numbering around 350,000, most members of this ethnic minority were driven out after systematic and sometimes brutal ethnic cleansing in 1989-1990. Subsequent massacres of Kashmiri Pandits by Mujahideen in remote hamlets of Kashmir in late 1990’s led to further exodus of the indigenous people from Kashmir.
Mr. President, today the population of Pandits living in Kashmir has dwindled to about 7,000. Many of these people are living in extreme poverty, as the government in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has been insensitive to their economic needs. While internally displaced Pandits who fled to Jammu and other parts of India receive financial sustenance from the Indian government, most of the displaced Pandits in Kashmir, who shifted from remote hamlets to relatively safe areas, receive no financial assistance and have no means of economic support in localities far removed from their ancestral lands.
A sizeable number of Pandit youth in Kashmir today are unemployed. About 150 Pandit families (constituting nearly 10% of its population in the valley) are destitute, eating one meal that is sometimes provided by religious shrines in their neighborhoods. Sadly, these aboriginal people of Kashmir have received scant attention and their plight is largely ignored by the civil society.
Dr. Vijay Sazawal is a policy analyst and a commentator who specializes in local governance and intra-community issues affecting political dynamics within the Kashmir valley. He has written extensively on the current political turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir (commonly referred to as Kashmir), arguing for new and innovative approaches in understanding and resolving the simmering discontent in all communities and regions of the State.