WASHINGTON, D.C.— A senior Republican lawmaker, Rep. George Holding, the GOP co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India, in an apparent pushback and hefty swipe against this Democratic counterpart Rep. Brad Sherman — for his stinging criticism of India’s human rights violations in Kashmir at the Congressional hearing he recently convened — has strongly defended the Modi government’s action’s in the Valley.
On Oct. 22, a hearing titled “Human Rights in South Asia,’ where the focus of largely on the current humanitarian situation in Kashmir, convened by Sherman, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, who is also the Democratic co-chair of the India Caucus, pilloried India for human rights violations against minorities, with Sherman himself leading the charge.
Holding, who represents North Carolina, on Oct. 31, took to the House floor to unequivocally endorse India’s actions in revoking Article 370 of the Indian Constitution providing for special status for Kashmir, arguing that it “was an outdated provision of law” and deemed “temporary” by the Indian Constitution that had led to corruption, nepotism and cronyism by “those with political connections,” but left the majority of people in the state denied of “economic opportunities.”
On the same day that, through a government notification, two Union territories —Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh — replaced the earlier dispensation, in keeping with the Indian government’s abrogation on Aug. 5 of Article 370, the lawmaker said that the legislation adopted by the Indian parliament “modified provisions that were an obstacle to economic development and promoted a sense of separatism,” fomented by Pakistan.
Holding argued that “Article 370 might have worked well for those with political connections, but it denied economic opportunities for the people,” and described special status for Kashmir as “an outdated provision of law that the Indian Constitution recognized as ‘temporary.’’
“It also created a polarizing environment that was exploited politically,” he asserted, and added, “During the past decades, thousands of people lost their lives due to terrorist attacks.”
Holding said that “several groups based in Pakistan were able to conduct cross-border terrorism that wreaked havoc on individuals and families, and led to a morbid economy.”
Thus, he said the Modi government had no other alternative than “to make a decision on whether to continue with the old policy or to pursue progress by changing the region’s legal status.”
“Madame Speaker, the people of Jammu and Kashmir deserve better and Prime Minister Modi was right to take bold steps to address this situation,” he said, and noted, “Changes to the status of Jammu and Kashmir passed parliament by a two-thirds majority, which highlights the consensus on the need for this reform.”
But Holding charged that “even with these changes, those seeking to cause disruption have continued to promote violence. Pakistan-based terror groups have recently floated posters warning common citizens against venturing out, going to work, and visiting public places.”
“These groups have continued to engage in cross-border terrorism and have attacked civilians and children. These militant groups have also attacked migrant workers and those who are involved in the apple business, which is the chief crop of Kashmir,” he said.
Holding said that “in order for Jammu and Kashmir to flourish, there must be peace and stability, Individuals and families need to feel sage when they leave their homes and go to work.”
He reiterated, "The steps that Prime Minister Modi and the Parliament have taken are needed, they're good for the long-term stability of the region, and they should be applauded.”
On Oct. 22, a hearing titled “Human Rights in South Asia,’ lawmaker after lawmaker, virtually all of them Democrats, including Indian American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal of Washington state attacked what they called India’s draconian actions in Kashmir with an intensity not seen in decades, often to loud applause and cheering by Kashmiri American Muslims, the pro-Pakistan lobby and members of progressive groups in the audience of this public hearing.
Sherman in his opening remarks, said that while “there are many human rights issues in South Asia, the entire world is focused on what’s happening today in Kashmir.”
Sherman said, “As co-chair of the India Caucus and chair of this Subcommittee, I recognize the strategic importance and economic importance of India…(but) that natural alliance is set back when human rights deteriorate.”
A Democratic colleague of Sherman, who is also a member of the India Caucus, told India Abroad that “I have concerns about the hearing and that it was conducted in a way that was not typical.”
The lawmaker, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “Usually there’s no cheering and clapping aloud because a hearing is a special place,” and argued, “You have to listen to different views somewhat dispassionately as much as possible.”
“Obviously, these are emotional issues,” he acknowledged, “but also the witnesses were not typical witnesses. I thought the whole thing was a little bit unusual—so, it was a strange day.”
The lawmaker asserted, “This is not a rally –this is not a Trump rally or something.’
“So, we have to be very careful in such a situation, in my opinion,” he added.