WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D.-Wash.) has once again tweeted her concern over human rights violations in Kashmir and also fired off a missive to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to press the Indian government to “immediately lift the communications blackout and adhere to international human rights standards in Jammu and Kashmir.”
In her tweet on Sept. 11, Jayapal said, “I continue to be deeply concerned about credible reports of a humanitarian crisis in Jammu & Kashmir. Even in complex situations, we look to strong democratic allies like India to uphold basic human rights and due process.”
Meanwhile, in her letter to Pompeo, dated Sept. 10, which was co-signed by Rep. James McGovern (D.-Mass.), Jayapal informed America’s top diplomat that “we write to raise significant concerns about the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Jammu & Kashmir.”
“In particular, we are concerned about credible reports from journalists and advocates on the ground that the Indian government has detained thousands of people with no recourse, imposed de facto curfews on residents' and cut off internet and telephone access in the region,” they noted.
Jayapal and McGovern noted that “we also write on behalf of our constituents and those of many of our colleagues who have informed us that they are unable to contact their loved ones on the ground.”
They argued, “As the world's largest democracy, India shares a unique and important relationship with the United States,” and while acknowledging that “we have deep regard for that relationship,” informed Pompeo that “it is incumbent upon us to speak out when our shared democratic principles are being undermined.”
“Regardless of the complexity of any situation, we firmly believe that democratic principles of due process and human rights must apply,” the lawmakers said, and added, “For this reason, we urge you to press the Indian government to immediately lift the communications blackout and adhere to international human rights standards in Jammu & Kashmir.”
Jayapal and McGovern reiterated that “the communications blackout persists even as increasingly disturbing reports of human rights abuses have emerged from a range of credible sources.”
“Multiple reports indicate that over 3,000 people have been indefinitely detained by Indian authorities without any charges, some as young as 11 years old. Those jailed have included elected officials, lawyers, business executives, religious leaders and doctors,” they added.
Jayapal and McGovern apprised Pompeo that “reports also indicate that the Indian government has severely curtailed access to life-saving medical care for the Kashmiri people. The largest hospitals in the capital city of Srinagar and across Jammu & Kashmir have apparently run out of life-saving medication while people in dire need are restricted from traveling to doctors and pharmacies.”
“Further reports indicate that Indian authorities have arrested doctors for speaking out about these shortages,” they noted, an added, “Moreover, international media outlets have documented multiple instances of medical examiners being pressured to withhold the causes of death for their patients in order to avoid blaming Indian authorities.”
Jayapal an McGovern also said, “Alongside these reports, we are concerned about the surge in attacks against religious minorities throughout India,” and pointed out, “Both the signatories of this letter did raise similar concerns directly to Prime Minister Modi during a Congressional delegation to India in early 2017 and urged the Prime Minister to speak out against such religious extremism.”
“Unfortunately, these kinds of attacks have continued, with horrifying reports of lynchings by Hindu nationalists targeting Muslims, Christians and lower-caste Hindus,” they said, and noted, “The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has repeatedly condemned these attacks and criticized the Indian government for its ‘allowance and encouragement of mob violence against religious minorities.’”
Jayapal and McGovern said, “Most recently, we are disturbed to hear reports that Muslims in Kashmir have been prohibited from observing communal worship and celebrating their most significant religious holiday of the year.”
Jayapal and McGovern urged, “international media and independent human rights observers must immediately be allowed into Jammu & Kashmir to investigate reports of abuse,” they said, and added, “ We also urge the Indian Government at its highest levels to make it clear that religious tolerance--long a principal of Indian history and democracy--must be upheld.”
Jayapal and McGovern, also informed Pompeo that “UN experts have already spoken out forcefully to condemn India's actions and potential abuse of human rights in Kashmir,” and noted that “at this month's meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, we urge the United States delegation to push for immediate action on these issues.”
“The United States must send a clear message that democracy requires transparency, due process and freedom of assembly and speech, even in the most complex of situations,” they said in conclusion.
On Aug. 24, Jayapal tweeted that 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.
“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 said, and argued that “using fear and hyper-patriotism to suppress dissent is as detrimental in India as it is in America.”