U.S. lawmakers flag curbs in Kashmir

2 prominent Democrats ask Pompeo to ‘press’ India to end restrictions

September 12, 2019 10:32 pm | Updated September 13, 2019 11:29 am IST - Washington DC

Shut off: People sit infront of a closed market in Pampore in south Kashmir.

Shut off: People sit infront of a closed market in Pampore in south Kashmir.

Pramila Jayapal and James McGovern, two prominent and liberal Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives, have written to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to “press” the Indian government to immediately end the communications restrictions in Kashmir and adhere to international human rights standards there.

The lawmakers have also raised the issue of a “surge in attacks against religious minorities” in India with Mr. Pompeo. The letter is the latest instance of messages from Congress members, either sent to the administration or raised on social media or at gatherings, raising concerns about the restrictions the government has imposed on Kashmir. Ben Cardin, a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had tweeted and issued a statement on September 9 raising similar concerns. Democrat Judy Chu, a congresswoman from California, had tweeted about the issue on Monday.

Ms. Jayapal and Mr. McGovern’s letter, dated September 10, and tweeted by Ms. Jayapal on Wednesday, seeks to “raise significant concerns about the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Jammu & Kashmir” and highlights the detentions, curfews, lack of communication and internet access.

“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,” the lawmakers said.

Ms. Jayapal, a Chennai-born Congresswoman from Washington state is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Mr. McGovern is Chairman of the House Rules Committee which decides whether and how the House will vote on legislation.

“As the world’s largest democracy, India shares a unique and important relationship with the United States. While we have deep regard for that relationship, 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,” they said.

The lawmakers’ letter highlights reports of “severely curtailed” access to medical services and doctors and medical examiners being pressured to not speak up about shortages or the causes of death of patients.

It also raises concerns — that have persisted — on mob lynchings of minorities, saying such attacks have continued. Ms. Jayapal and Mr. McGovern have earlier raised the issue directly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017 during a Congressional visit to India, as per the letter.

“We also urge 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 letter says.

The lawmakers have asked the Indian government to allow international media and human rights observers access to the region to verify reports and for the U.S. to “push for immediate action on these issues” via its delegation at the U.N. Human Rights Council currently in session.

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