Watching the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Hearing on Human Rights in South Asia was like having a front row seat to a Colonizer Board Meeting.
I knew going into the hearing that the master, Western narrative about Kashmir would dominate. I just had no idea how openly bigoted our progressive elected officials could be, running a curated story about human rights violations that relied so blatantly on circular logic, colonizing tropes, and selective concern. It also reaffirmed, for me, the deadly combination (no exaggeration) of American (United States) entitlement, exceptionalism, and willful ignorance that plagues this nation and has hurt so much of the rest of the world.
I am compelled to begin with the following observation: The United States House Foreign Affairs Committee brazenly ignored and officially erased the genocide and (seven iterations of) ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits — the indigenous people of the land — from the Kashmir Valley during its hearing on human rights violations in South Asia.
This is because the entire hearing was predicated on Hinduphobia and the specter of rampant Hindu Islamophobia. The fact that indigenous Hindus were driven from their ancestral land by militant Kashmiri Muslims is inconvenient to that narrative.
As I watched the spectacle unfold, the normalcy of censoring of Hindus in the media and popular discourse — and now, within the formal chambers of democracy — became painfully apparent. I have come to recognize that what makes Hinduphobia so insidious is that it promotes anti-Hinduism and anti-Hindu fear as socially and morally good. It is the modern version of old-school colonizing, missionary rhetoric. Which means it is completely camouflaged and very difficult for people to understand.
In his opening, Congressman Levin states to Chatterji and Kaul, “I want to thank you for your scholarship, for your work on the ground, the different roles you play […] I’ve spoken out about what happened in Kashmir, and caught a lot of heck for it but I don’t really care…um…it’s really important that we speak the truth about these matters [audience claps]” (Part II: 1:17:29). He is not talking about the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits, and neither did they.