A delegation of the Kashmiri Pandit community met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston on Saturday and thanked him for the historic decision to revoke Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
PM Modi acknowledged the hardships endured by the community following their exodus from their ancestral homeland back in 1989-1990 due to militancy. "You have suffered a lot, but the world is changing," said PM Modi. "We have to move ahead together and build a new Kashmir."
"I had a special interaction with Kashmiri Pandits in Houston," PM Modi tweeted following the interaction.
One of the members of the group kissed PM Modi's hand to thank him "on behalf of 7 lakh Kashmiri Pandits" for the move. The group assured the Prime Minister of their community's full support in building a peaceful and prosperous Kashmir.
"We thanked him on behalf of the 700,000 Kashmiri Pandits all over the globe for such a historic decision. We assured him that our community will work with the government to fulfill your dream for a Kashmir which is peaceful, full of growth where people are all happy," Surinder Kaul, a member representing Kashmiri Pandit community, told ANI.
The group presented a memorandum, requesting the Prime Minister to establish a task force or advisory council comprising of members from the community that would "bring together respected Kashmiri Pandit community leaders, subject matter experts, and key stakeholders both in India and abroad to advise and help in the development of a comprehensive plan to repatriate and reintegrate Kashmiri Pandits to the region".
It added that the community looks forward to working with the Indian government and the newly constituted Union Territories to bring inclusive and sustainable development for the benefit of all, as well as to returning home in order to restore Kashmiri civilization's core values of peace, pluralism and religious freedom.
"The Prime Minister told us: You've suffered a lot together; we've to build new Kashmir. We presented him with messages the community prepared for him. I presented a memorandum on behalf of the community. He gladly accepted that," Kaul added.
"When we talked of Article 370, he said there's a new breeze and we'll build a new Kashmir. We've hopes from the PM, we'll work with him and make Kashmir a paradise again," said Rakesh Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit.
Before leaving, PM Modi joined the group in reciting 'Namaste Sharade Devi' shloka. The meeting was preceded by interactions with members of the Sikh and Bohra community in Houston. The interactions come ahead of the mega Howdy, Modi! event, where US President Donald Trump will be joining Prime Minister Modi. More than 50,000 members of the Indian-American community are expected to attend the event.