16 November 2019
Washington: Sunanda Vashisht, a Kashmiri Hindu who put up a strong defence of India's move on Kashmir at a US Congressional hearing on Thursday, has said that she knew she was putting herself "in front of a firing squad" when she agreed to testify "but retreat has never been an option".
In a series of tweets thanking people for the massive support she received for her spirited defence of the Indian government's move to abrogate Article 370, Vashisht said that when people around her realised that she was going to testify in the "one-sided India bashing fest", they told her she had "chosen voluntary suicide".
Vashisht, a writer and political commentator who testified at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, tweeted with the hashtag #congresshearing. Here's what she said in tweets:
"Friends, I am just overwhelmed by all the messages of support and encouragement that I have received. It is impossible for me to reply to each one of you but please do know that I am grateful for your feedback.
"Let me give a bit of background info. I got to know about the hearing on Tuesday 12th, Nov. The hearing was on Thursday, 14th Nov. I was shocked when I saw the names of the panellists. Without a counter narrative this was going to be a one-sided India bashing fest.
"It was too late to do anything, so at this point I put out a series of tweets calling the commission for its bias if they did nothing to include a counter narrative. A hearing like this where only one side speaks is not a hearing but a living room conversation.
"I don't know what happened but on Wednesday morning I received an invitation to testify in Washington DC. I had about 24 hours to prepare, figure out logistics, get my thoughts together and get ready to face the most hostile panel that I have ever been on.
"I knew I was going to be a minority of one. I knew that I was putting myself in front of a firing squad. But retreat has never been an option. Most people around me were worried and clearly told me I had chosen voluntary suicide.
"Deep in my heart I knew this was one opportunity to put across our story in US Congress. I knew one misspoken word, one mistake and it would haunt me forever. Conversely if I succeeded it would be all worth the effort.
"When I reached the Capitol Hill I was shaking with nervousness. Close friends (you know who you are) stood by me like a rock. I was worried I had not had enough time to prepare. But I learnt when you are on the side of the truth, you really don't need to prepare.
"Just before entering the room where hearing was to be held, I spoke to my mother in India. The nervousness lasted only till I started speaking. After that I have no recollection of what happened. Opening statement was written. Nothing else was.
"I must thank Chairman of the Commission @RepMcGovern for being fair in conducting the hearing. He gave me enough time and even though it was a lopsided panel, I was given time for interventions and rebuttals. I will be very thankful for that.
"Finally, such things never happen without support of good friends and like-minded people. This was also result of an immense community effort. My deepest gratitude to all."
While testifying, Vashisht told the panel that those talking of human rights violations in Kashmir today cannot ignore the rights of the Kashmiri Hindus who were forced to flee the Valley by Islamic radicals in 1990.
She said while the world is expressing horror at the brutality of the Islamic State outfit's actions in Syria and elsewhere, the Kashmiri Hindu community had witnessed it 30 years ago.
"We have seen ISIS level of horror and brutality in Kashmir 30 years before the West was even introduced to the brutality of radical Islamic terror," Vashisht told the panel.