From Sandra Johnson
WASHINGTON: A bill has been introduced in the United States House of Representatives asking India to end the restrictions on communications and mass detentions in occupied Kashmir and preserve religious freedom for all residents.
Resolution number 745 was introduced by Indian-American Democrat lawmaker Pramila Jayapal, along with Republican lawmaker Steve Watkins. It observed that it has been more than four months now since political leaders, including three former chief ministers, were detained in Jammu and Kashmir, following the revocation of Article 370 under the Constitution that gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The internet remains cut off for most people. The resolution in the U.S., which will be put to vote in the house, says: “…Urges the Government of India to lift the remaining restrictions oncommunication and to restore internet access across all of Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible; swiftly release arbitrarily detained people in Jammu and Kashmir; refrain from conditioning the release of detained people on their willingness to sign bonds prohibiting any political activities and speeches; allow international human rights observers and journalists to access Jammu and Kashmir and operate freely throughout India, without threats, and condemn, at the highest levels, all religiously motivated violence, including that violence which targets against religious minorities. The U.S. lawmakers said they reject arbitrary detention, use of excessive force against civilians, and suppression of peaceful expression of dissent as proportional responses to security challenges.
“…Urges the Government of India to ensure that any actions taken in pursuit of legitimate security priorities respect the human rights of all people and adhere to international human rights law,” the resolution said.
The U.S. House of Representatives is dominated by democrats who have been extremely critical of India’s restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir. India has been lobbying hard to counter this, and has hired a lobbying firm close to the Democratic Party to get its message across.
There have been two U.S. Congress hearings on Jammu and Kashmir so far.
In October, India said it is regrettable that a few U.S. lawmakers used a Congressional hearing to question measures to protect the lives of people in Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is regrettable that a few members of the U.S. Congress used the Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia to question the measures taken recently to safeguard life, peace and security in Kashmir,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar had said.
In occupied Kashmir, unabated military siege and lockdown continued to affect daily life of the people on 126th consecutive day on Sunday. A sense of fear prevails among the local population due to the imposition of restrictions under Section 144 in the territory.
Shops and other business establishments are mostly closed and educational institutions and offices wear a deserted look as mark of people’s disobedience against Indian occupation, particularly anti-Kashmir steps taken by India on Aug. 5.
The suspension of internet, text messaging and prepaid mobile services continues to haunt almost all segments of the society including students, businessmen, doctors and patients.
Senior Congress leader and former Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that the freedom was denied to 7.5 million people in the Kashmir valley. P Chidambaram addressed a press conference in Channai after his release from prison in Delhi and dubbed the Indian government “retrograde”.
From Sandra Johnson