US lawmakers seek details on Jammu and Kashmir
Six US lawmakers, all Democrats, have sought specific details on the relaxation of the clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir as claimed by the Narendra Modi government, urging India to allow foreign journalists and diplomats to visit the state for a fair assessment.
In a letter to the Indian ambassador in Washington, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the six lawmakers have said their constituents “have painted a much different picture of the situation than what you shared with us”.
Urging India to open up, they have said: “We believe true transparency can only be achieved when journalists and members of Congress are allowed free access to the region.”
Shringla had briefed the House foreign affairs committee on October 16 on the situation in Kashmir as part of a diplomatic offensive ahead of Tuesday’s congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia, which was dominated by Kashmir as expected.
Among the questions the US lawmakers have asked are whether all landlines have been restored, when the government would restore all mobile connections — including pre-paid ones — and Internet access (and not just at kiosks), and what the status of the curfew is.
They have sought the number of people detained under the Public Safety Act or any other legal provisions since August 5 — adding “please be as specific as possible” — and asked how many of those detained were minors.
“What is the standard judicial procedure for someone detained under the Public Safety Act?” their letter asks.
It seeks details about the government’s plans to allow residents to return to uninhibited movement: “When can we expect that?”
The letter has asked why New Delhi has not allowed foreign journalists inside Jammu and Kashmir, and whether it would let US lawmakers or other foreign officials visit the state.
Seeking details on what the government is doing to ensure the rights of peaceful protesters, the US lawmakers have referred to reports of rubber bullets being used for crowd control and asked whether protesters have been blinded by rubber bullets.
“Can you confirm whether there are any known cases of protesters being blinded by rubber bullets including the number of children?
Are rubber bullets still being used for crowd control? What is the Indian government doing to ensure the right of peaceful protesters?” the letter says.
Tuesday’s hearing saw even a couple of Republican lawmakers grill state department officials on the situation in Kashmir, asking what the Donald Trump administration was doing to persuade India to relax the restrictions and uphold human rights.