WASHINGTON: The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission – a bipartisan US Congressional Caucus – held a hearing on human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir on November 14 in Washington.
The Commissioner at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom Anurima Bhargava was the first Panelist in the hearing, and he underlined the growing Hindu nationalism and focused on the reports of communication blackout and restrictions on human rights in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K), noting that no access being provided by India to the region.
Anurima Bhargava highlighted the growing persecution of religious minorities specially Muslims in India manifested in the form of anti-conversion legislation, and maintained that Ayodhya verdict, National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, mob violence and revocation of A-370 led to the growing sense of fear among the Indian minorities and held the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) responsible for it. He asked the US State Department to constructively engage with India to restore the human rights.
The Second Panel included Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Law, Justice and Culture in Ohio University Haley Duschinski, Human Rights lawyer Sehla Ashai, Human Rights lawyer Yousra Fazili, Human rights lawyer and Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Law Arjun S. Sethi, writer, political commentators, and Kashmiri Hindu who identifies as a victim of ethnic cleansing Sunanda Vashisht, and Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch John Sifton.
The Panelists underlined the humanitarian crisis with continuous curfew in IOJ&K, Indian illegal actions of August 5 and October 31, Indian violation of UN Security Council resolutions that calls for a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir, & mass-detentions, and urged the Congress to pass a resolution calling India to lift the siege.
The Panel except Sunanda Vashisht recommended the resolution by the US Congress calling on India to end the siege, give access to international/UN observers and journalists, restore human rights, and repeal the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA).
Sehla Ashai termed Indian actions as de facto annexation of Kashmir and blasted Indian excuses of bringing development and women empowerment. She said that the in fact BJP aims at demographic changes in IOJ&K and resource appropriation.
Yousra Fazili highlighted the plight of Kashmiris including her own cousin who was taken away by Indian forces during a mid-night raid post August 5 while Arjun Sethi underlined the role of BJP in the triumph of Hindu extremism and its patronage of mob violence against minorities.