Two United States lawmakers have expressed their continuing concern over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, following India’s decision to repeal Article 370 on August 5, a move which took away the state’s special status, and the ensuing restrictions in place in the region.
Indian-American Congresswoman in the House of Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Congressman James P McGovern urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to press India to immediately end the communication blockade and release those who have been detained.
The lawmakers said international media and independent human rights observers must immediately be allowed in the state to investigate reports of abuse.
The letter dated September 11 to Pompeo said: “We urge you to work across the Administration to press the Indian Government to immediately end its communications blackout of Kashmir, expedite the process of reviewing and releasing individuals ‘preventatively’ detained, ensure hospitals have access to life-saving medicines and protect the rights of the Kashmiri people to freedom of assembly and worship.”
The lawmakers said they have significant concerns about the humanitarian and human rights “crisis” in 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 defacto curfews and cut off internet and telephone access on the region,” the letter said.
Jayapal, the only Indian-American Congresswoman, said she was deeply concerned about credible reports of a humanitarian crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. “Even in complex situations, we look to strong democratic allies like India to uphold basic human rights and due process,” she said in a tweet on Wednesday. “I also remain concerned about a surge of attacks against religious minorities in India,” she added. “I’ve raised these concerns before, and I urge the Indian govt to work to uphold religious tolerance – long a principal of Indian history and democracy.”
Earlier this month, US presidential contender Bernie Sanders had called India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir “unacceptable”. US Congressman Andy Levin had also criticised the Narendra Modi-led administration’s decision on Jammu and Kashmir. He said Modi had trampled democratic norms and fundamental human rights and heightened long-simmering tensions between India and Pakistan.
Some other members of the US Congress have also expressed concern about the continuing communication restrictions and detentions in the Valley. Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, had asked members to speak up on the matter.
These statements came ahead of Modi’s visit to New York for the 74th session of the General Assembly later this month.
India has repeatedly said that the decisions it has taken for the region of Jammu and Kashmir are its internal matter. India’s Ambassador to the United States Harsh Vardhan Shringla had also defended India’s move to revoke special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and said sections of the American media had pushed forward a perspective that is “inimical” to New Delhi’s interest.
President Donald Trump, on Monday, reiterated his offer to help India and Pakistan resolve the Kashmir dispute. He had offered to mediate in the Kashmir matter two other times.
Restrictions were imposed and communication lines were cut in Jammu and Kashmir a day before the central government’s August 5 announcement to revoke the state’s special status. Several leaders were also either put under house arrest or detained. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had on Wednesday said landline phone connections had been restored in Jammu and Kashmir while mobile postpaid connections were functioning in Kupwara district.
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