Another Democrat lawmaker urges action against India’s policies in Kashmir

A paramilitary trooper patrols at the top of a hill overlooking Srinagar, Kashmir, in August 2019. (Getty Images)

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D.-Mich.) has become the latest lawmaker among moderate and progressive Democrats to express concern over human rights violations in Kashmir in the aftermath of the Indian government’s abrogation of Article 370 that provided special status to this only Muslim majority state in the country, and signed on as a co-sponsor to a resolution authored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D.-Wash.) urging India to end restrictions on communications and mass detentions in the valley.

Jayapal’s resolution (H.R. 745) introduced in the House of Representatives last year, now has 36 cosponsors, of whom only two are Republicans while the rest are all Democrats.

In a tweet, Dingell said, "The situation in Kashmir violates human rights. Thousands have been detained unjustly & millions are without access to the internet & telephones.”

“That's why I signed onto House Resolution 745 so the US can let the world know we will not stand by while these violations happen," she said.

The resolution is currently before the House Foreign Affairs Committee for necessary action.

In a another Kashmir-related development, Rep. Brad Sherman (D.-Calif.), a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said he looked forward to getting an update on the Kashmir situation from U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, who was among 15 envoys who recently visited Jammu and Kashmir and interacted with select political representatives, military officials and civil society members.

"I expect the report to indicate what restrictions the Ambassador faced, in particularly, whether or not the Ambassador was able to visit detainees. The visit and report are valuable only to the extent of the access given," Sherman tweeted.

On Jan. 15, Human Rights Watch, said in its World Report 2020 that the Indian government’s unilateral actions in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 caused enormous suffering and rights violations of the Kashmiri population.

It said, “Indian authorities also failed to protect religious minorities, used draconian sedition and counterterrorism laws to silence peaceful dissent, and invoked foreign funding regulations and other laws to discredit and muzzle nongovernmental organizations critical of government actions or policies.”

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW, said, “The Indian government has tried to shut down Kashmir, hiding the full extent of the harm caused there,” and alleged, “Instead of addressing growing attacks on minorities, Indian authorities bolstered their efforts to silence critical voices in 2019.”

In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, HRW reviewed human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.

On the section on India, it said, “Prior to its actions in Jammu and Kashmir, the government deployed additional troops to the province, shut down the internet and phones, and arbitrarily detained thousands of Kashmiris, including political leaders, activists, journalists, lawyers, and potential protesters, including children. Hundreds remain in detention without charge or under house arrest to prevent protests.”

The report also alleged that “the government failed to properly enforce Supreme Court directives to prevent and investigate mob attacks, often led by BJP supporters, on religious minorities and other vulnerable communities,”
 and added, “Since May 2015, extremist Hindu groups have killed 50 people and injured over 250 amid rumors that they traded or killed cows for beef. Muslims were also beaten and forced to chant Hindu slogans. Police failed to properly investigate the crimes, stalled investigations, ignored procedures, and filed criminal cases against witnesses to harass and intimidate them.”

“The Indian government’s actions in Kashmir have led to loss of livelihood and access to education,” it said, and pointed out, that “the repression resulted in international criticism including in the United States’ Congress, the European Parliament, and the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

The report noted, “Throughout the year, UN experts have raised concerns over a series of issues in India, including extrajudicial killings, potential statelessness of millions in Assam, possible eviction of tribal communities and forest-dwellers, and the communications blackout in Kashmir.”

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