In a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, two members of the American Congress, Pramila Jayapal and James McGovern, raising “significant concerns” about what they call “humanitarian and human rights crisis in Jammu & Kashmir”, quoting “credible reports” from journalists and advocates on the ground” have said that “the Indian government has detained thousands of people with no recourse, imposed de facto curfews on residents’ and cut off internet and telephone access in the region.”
Seeking Pompeo’s intervention, Jayapal and McGovern, writing on “behalf of our constituents and those of many of our colleagues who have informed us that they are unable to contact their loved ones on the ground”, argue, “As the world’s largest democracy, India shares a unique and important relationship with the United States,” one reason why “it is incumbent upon us to speak out when our shared democratic principles are being undermined.”
Both Democrats, while Jayapal, born in Chennai, immigrated to US in 1982 when she was 16, and has headed a pro-immigrants advocacy group, McGovern, an international human rights advocate, is known as one of the most liberals members of the Congress.
Pressing upon Pompeo to tell the Indian government “to immediately lift the communications blackout and adhere to international human rights standards in Jammu & Kashmir”, they give instances of how amidst communications blackout there are “increasingly disturbing reports of human rights abuses.”
We write to raise significant concerns about the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Jammu & 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 on residents’ and cut off internet and telephone access in the region.
We also write on behalf of our constituents and those of many of our colleagues who have Informed us that they are unable to contact their loved ones on the ground.
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. For this reason, we urge you to press the Indian government to immediately lift the communications blackout and adhere to international human rights standards to Jammu & Kashmir.
The communications blackout persists even as increasingly disturbing reports of human rights abuses have emerged from a range of credible sources. 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.
Reports also indicate that the Indian government has severely curtailed access to life-saving medical care for the Kashmiri people. The largest hospitals in the capital city of Srinagar and across Jammu & Kashmir have apparently run out of life-saving medication while people in dire need are restricted from traveling to doctors and pharmacies.
Further reports indicate that Indian authorities have arrested doctors for speaking out about these shortages. Moreover, international media outlets have documented multiple instances of medical examiners being pressured to withhold the causes of death for their patients in order to avoid blaming Indian authorities.
Alongside these reports, we are concerned about the surge in attacks against religious minorities throughout India. Both the signatories of this letter did raise similar concerns directly to Prime Minister Modi during a Congressional delegation to India in early 2017 and urged the Prime Minister to speak out against such religious extremism.
We urge you to work across the Administration to press the Indian government to immediately expedite the process of reviewing and releasing individuals “preventatively” detained
Unfortunately, these kinds of attacks have continued, with horrifying reports of lynchings by Hindu nationalists targeting Muslims, Christians and lower-caste Hindus. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has repeatedly condemned these attacks and criticized the Indian government for its “allowance and encouragement of mob violence against religious minorities?”
Most recently, we are disturbed to hear reports that Muslims in Kashmir have been prohibited from observing communal worship and celebrating their most significant religious holiday of the year.
We appreciate the communications we have received from representatives of the Indian government refuting some of these reports. However, the most credible way to refute these reports would be for the Indian government to allow independent media and international human rights observers access to the region in order to properly investigate them.
With the near-total blackout of communications in Jammu & Kashmir, independent verification has been impossible. Instead, there are continuing reports that both local and international journalists face serious restrictions including outright physical assault from Indian authorities.
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 medicine and protect the rights of the Kashmiri people to freedom of assembly and worship.
Furthermore, international media and independent human rights observers must immediately be allowed into Jammu & Kashmir to investigate reports of abuse. We also urge the Indian Government at its highest levels to make it clear that religious tolerance — long a principal of Indian history and democracy — must be upheld.
UN experts have already spoken out forcefully to condemn India’s actions and potential abuse of human rights in Kashmir. At this month’s meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, we urge the United States delegation to push for immediate action on these issues. 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.