Two US lawmakers have expressed concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir, and urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to press India to immediately end the communications blockade and release those who have been detained. In a letter to Pompeo dated September 11, Pramila 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.
“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 defacto curfews and cut off internet and telephone access on the region,” they said.
Restrictions were imposed when New Delhi had 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. “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.
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.”
Asserting that the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”, India has defended 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. 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.