Rep. Jayapal says she’s ‘deeply troubled’ by the mass arrests in Kashmir

Kashmir women protesting in Srinagar last week.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed to have convinced President Donald Trump that the Kashmir imbroglio is a bilateral issue to be resolved by India and Pakistan, during their meeting on the sidelines of the G-7 Summit in Biarritz, France on Aug.25 and there’s no need for Trump’s mediation, the growing tensions and arrests in Kashmir continued to raise concerns among U.S. lawmakers.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D.-Wash.), the first Indian-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and now the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus has said she’s “deeply troubled” over the mass arrests in the valley, and called for “transparency” by the government of India in the aftermath of its revocation of Article 370 of the constitution that provided for special status for Kashmir.

In a tweet on Aug. 24, Jayapal said, “Deeply troubled by report of Indian Govt’s arrests of 2,000 in Kashmir. This on top of reported plans for large-scale government detention camps for Muslims.”

She argued that “using fear and hyper-patriotism to suppress dissent is as detrimental in India as it is in America.”

“Democracy requires transparency, due process and freedom of assembly and speech,” Jayapal argued, and added, “These are absolutely essential, even in the most complex of situations.”

Jayapal, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, also attached a New York Times article on her Twitter account that reported that the whereabouts of the people rounded up in Kashmir since Aug. 5 after the announcement by the Indian government of its decision to revoke Article 370 remained unknown.

According to the Times report, “Kashmiri politicians, business owners, activists and scholars are among those swept up as India tightens its grip — critics say illegally — on the territory.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Don Beyer (D.-Va.), said that he’s “very concerned about the situation in Kashmir, particularly the ongoing communications blackout," while on Aug. 23, Rep. Peter King (R.-N.Y.), who also has a significant South Asian American constituency of Indian Americans and Pakistani Americans in his district that includes Long Island, said he had met with the Indian Consul General in New York to discuss the Kashmir situation and the rising tensions between India and Pakistan.

King tweeted, "Met with Consul General of India to discuss India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir. Told him I understood India's action & had concerns over Islamist elements in Pakistan & Kashmir. But b/c of sensitivity & both countries being nuclear powers urged need to seek diplomatic solution.”

Rep. Adam Smith (D.-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he had called the Indian ambassador and informed him that he is “continuing to monitor the situation regarding the government of India’s decision to revoke the special status” for Kashmir, and pointed out that “there are legitimate concerns about the ongoing communications blackouts, increased militarization of the region, and enforcement of curfews.”

He said that he had brought to the attention of the Indian Ambassador that had constituents who were Kashmiri Americans and that a few of them who had visited Kashmir recently “saw a region under siege with its residents isolated, without an ability to communicate at all outside of the region.”

Thus, Smith said there has to be a “recognition of the potential disparate impact of this decision on the region’s Muslim population and other minority groups — now and in the future –“and that the protection of these communities “is imperative.”

He said his constituents who had visited Kashmir after Aug 5 had spoken of their fears and how they were “afraid for their own lives, and terrified for the safety of their family members.”

Smith urged that “the Indian government must take steps to reduce these fears and offer greater transparency for the world to see what is happening there.”

While arguing that the Indian government’s action “exacerbates an already tense environment,” he called on New Delhi to demonstrate “a commitment to the protection of basic human rights and equal rights.”

On the Senate side, Lindsay Graham (R.-S.C.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, in tweets in the aftermath of India’s action in removing Article 370, said the Kashmir issue “must be addressed” and hoped that the Trump administration would help alleviate the current crisis.

Graham said, “Hope the Trump administration will provide assistance to both Pakistan and India to find a way to de-escalate the current crisis. The last thing the region and the world needs is further military confrontations between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.”

Earlier, Senator Robert Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Rep. Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has put out a joint statement following India’s revocation of Article 370, stating that “as the world’s largest democracy, India has an opportunity to demonstrate for all its citizens the importance of protecting and promoting equal rights, including freedom of assembly, access to information and equal protections under the law”.

Menendez and Engel also called to Pakistan to “refrain from any retaliatory aggression — including support for infiltrations across the Line of Control — and take demonstrable action against the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistan’s soil.”

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