Basic freedoms are at risk in Kashmir. The latest news on the human rights violations front there is that American lawmakers are expressing serious concern over the situation in occupied Kashmir. They have asked India to refrain from committing human rights violations, release all political detainees and lift restrictions in the territory.
The lawmakers aired their concerns during a Congressional hearing on ‘Human Rights in South Asia: Views from the State Department and the Region’. Congressman Brad Sherman, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in his opening remarks said that the entire world is focused today on what is happening in Kashmir. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal expressed her concerns over religious freedom in India and proposed to bring a bipartisan resolution in the Congress.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has been highly critical of India on Kashmir, said partnership with India is strategic but is also based on common values of human rights and democracy. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP has threatened all these values, she said. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells informed the lawmakers that the US is reaching out to engage a wide section and make a case for a political roadmap in Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, senior Indian journalist, Aarti Tikoo Singh, was admonished by US lawmakers, especially by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, for toeing the Indian government’s line on the prevailing situation in occupied Kashmir and calling the US Congressional hearing “prejudiced, biased, a setup against India and in favour of Pakistan”.
Aarti Tikoo Singh, who was nominated by the Indian government to speak at the US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Human Rights in South Asia” in Washington on Tuesday, tried to suggest that Kashmiri Muslims had suffered due to attacks by ‘Pakistan-sponsored militants’ was immediately countered by Ilhan Omar.
Meanwhile, the citizens of Kashmir suffer silently. The government’s decision to revoke special status for the state provided under Article 370 of the Indian constitution prompted condemnation from political leaders in Kashmir and generated tensions in the state. On August 5, Home Minister Amit Shah told parliament that “not all the provisions of Article 370 will now be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir.” In effect, these measures eliminate the autonomous status provided to Jammu and Kashmir when it acceded to India seven decades ago and splits the province into two separate territories which will be federally governed, reducing the authority of elected state officials.
Kashmir has witnessed a spike in violent protests and militant attacks in recent years. Indian security forces have often used excessive force to respond to protests, including using pellet-firing shotguns as a crowd-control weapon, even though they have caused a large number of protester deaths and injuries. The Indian government should review its crowd-control techniques and rules of engagement, and publicly order the security forces to abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
The government should periodically release lists of those detained, inform families of their whereabouts, and ensure that detainees have proper access to their families and legal counsel, Human Rights Watch said. International human rights law generally prohibits detention without charge and requires prompt and regular judicial review to prevent arbitrary detention.