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Tribute to Hasbrouck, an American who became voice of voiceless people of Kashmir

Washington: A memorial service was held for Marguerite Helen Velte Hasbrouck, a strong advocate and great defender of voiceless people of Kashmir, at Houghton Chapel, Wellesley College Campus, Massachusetts, USA.

According to Kashmir Media Service, Hasbrouck had visited the Valley of Kashmir more than dozen times and the last time in 1989 along with her son, Edward Hasbrouck. They later published a report in ‘Peacework’ Magazine, in September 1990, “As it happened, our arrival in the Kashmir Valley in 1989 coincided with the outbreak of the latest stage of the Kashmiri nationalist struggle. It started mainly as a movement for self-determination, and its tactics were those of nonviolent civil disobedience. But as the Indian government responded with crude repression, it increasingly became a campaign for human rights and simple survival. An army of half a million Indian soldiers, police, and spies now occupies most of Kashmir and enforces martial law over ten million Kashmiris.”

Marguerite was a strong advocate and great defender of voiceless people of Kashmir. She had visited the Valley of Kashmir more than dozen times and the last time in 1989 along with her son, Edward Hasbrouck. They later published a report in ‘Peacework’ Magazine, in September 1990, “As it happened, our arrival in the Kashmir Valley in 1989 coincided with the outbreak of the latest stage of the Kashmiri nationalist struggle. It started mainly as a movement for self-determination, and its tactics were those of nonviolent civil disobedience. But as the Indian government responded with crude repression, it increasingly became a campaign for human rights and simple survival. An army of half a million Indian soldiers, police, and spies now occupies most of Kashmir and enforces martial law over ten million Kashmiris.”
Marguerite wrote a letter to her Senator from Massachusetts, Senator Edward Kennedy on October 21, 1990 in which she mentioned that “The evidence as has managed to slip by strong and consistent Indian government attempts to bury it shows clearly that India is guilty of horrendous human rights abuses in Kashmir, where it is engaged in deliberate genocide of a people in order to control a region that was promised self-determination by India and Great Britain at the time of partition in 1947 and later by the United Nations.”

On another occasion Marguerite wrote to United States members of Congress, “I enclose some brief information on Kashmir. I hope that you will read it before committing yourselves, without thought, to supporting what seems to be one group of moneyed and potential political supporters over a mass of oppressed people of Kashmir.”

When Raisa Gorbachev and Barbara Bush visited Wellesley college to attend graduation ceremony in 1990, Marguerite and her son, Edward Hasbrouck were standing in front of the entrance of the college, holding placards, “Kashmiris demand right to self-determination.” When Hillary Clinton was invited to give commencement address at Wellesley College in 1992, Marguerite organized a ‘Vigil for oppressed people of Kashmir.”

When Harvard University, Center for International Affairs organized a lecture for George Fernandes, then the Federal Minister of India, on October 12, 1990, she attended the event along with her colleagues and took the notes which later she sent to me. She wrote at the end of her type written six pages, single space notes, “These are rough notes, roughly transcribed.” But when I compared these notes with the official 28 pages, double space transcript of Harvard University, they were as accurate as it could be.

Marguerite in particular highlighted the shining example of pluralism & diversity in Kashmir as mentioned by Mr. Fernandes in these words, “I was last in Kashmir a fortnight back…One point which people constantly make and which, I believe, needs to be made is that the property houses, orchards owned by the Pandits have not been damaged in the last one year. The apples, for instance, from these orchards, have been plucked and sold and the money has been deposited. The houses have been looked after as they were earlier by Muslim neighbors.”

Both Marguerite and Edward wrote a joint article, entitled, “Kashmiri People Struggle For Human Rights And Self-Determination.”  They elaborated that “Nonviolent demonstrations by as many as a million people are repeatedly broken up with automatic weapons fire. Thousands are wounded; hundreds killed. Those trying to aid the wounded are fired on, beaten, arrested.

Marguerite was born on October 30, 1933, in Lahore, Punjab (today Pakistan), where her father was a professor at Forman Christian College. When she was three years old, her parents brought her back to the U.S. She graduated from high school at sixteen and earned a degree in comparative government and religion at Barnard College, New York.

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