Washington: Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal along with another American lawmaker has asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to press India to immediately end the communications blockade in Kashmir and release those who have been detained.
In a letter to Pompeo dated September 11, Jayapal, the first and the only Indian-American Congresswoman in the House of Representatives, and Congressman James P. McGovern said the international media and independent human rights observers must immediately be allowed into Jammu and Kashmir to investigate reports of abuse.
Restrictions were imposed when New Delhi on August 5 scrapped the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated in into Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Having asserted that the reading down of Article 370 was its “internal matter“, India has doggedly defended the imposition of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists. India has been on an unrelenting diplomacy mission in the US to garner support in the aftermath of its decision. The lawmakers’ letters will have put a dent in the efforts.
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.
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) September 11, 2019
“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,” reads the letter.
The two lawmakers told Pompeo that 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 de facto curfews and cut off internet and telephone access on the region,” they said.
In June this year, Jayapal had made headlines when she had temporarily held the Speaker’s gavel, becoming the first South Asian American woman to preside over the US House of Representatives. She is a prolific tweeter and is known to share news articles and updates on House proceedings on the platform.
Tagging the letter in a tweet, Jayapal said: “I continue to be 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.”
The legislators also made mention of the reported paucity of life-saving medicines, the alleged detainment of thousands of people and minors, the treatment allegedly metted out to healthcare workers when it came to mentioning causes behind deaths, and reports on Muslims having been prevented from congregating for prayers.
“We also urged the Indian Government at its highest levels to make it clear that religious tolerance long a principle of Indian history and democracy must be upheld,” the two lawmakers wrote in the letter.
“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 the end.
On Saturday, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said mobile phone and Internet services can easily be used by Pakistan and terrorists for subversive activities, but the denial of these services should not prevent people from going about their lives.
(With PTI inputs)