US Congress members criticise Kashmir restrictions  

About 12 members of US Congress uniformly expressed concern about the detentions, restrictions on communications and movement and the prevention of non-Indian journalists from visiting Kashmir

US Congress members criticise Kashmir restrictions  
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IANS

"We are not taking a position on Article 370, we are taking a position on whether Kashmiris can live with dignity and have full economic and political life," Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State, said at a hearing on human rights in South Asia held by a Congressional subcommittee in Washington.

She said that the State Department had expressed the concern over the detentions of local residents and political leaders, including three former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir and has "urged Indian authorities to respect human rights and restore full access to services, including internet and mobile networks."

About 12 members of Congress who spoke during the four and a half hours of hearings uniformly expressed concern about the detentions, restrictions on communications and movement and the prevention of non-Indian journalists from visiting Kashmir.

Many of them said that the issues were raised by their constituents and several times the audience at the hearings clapped when statements critical of India were made.

Subcommittee Chair Brad Sherman asked the audience to hold their applause.

Sherman said that it was important for India to restore normalcy to Kashmir and restore communications.

Some of the Democrat's hostility towards President Donald Trump spilled over to India. The chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Elliot Engel said that Trump gives "a free pass" human rights violators and the State Department was giving India a "free pass" on revoking Article 370."

Many of the members of the House of Representatives asked Wells and Robert Destro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, what the administration was doing to ensure that human rights were respected in Kashmir and the government lifted the restrictions there and one, Democratic Representative Anthony Brown, hinted that the US take economic measures against India.

While some Representatives took a balanced approach, others were hostile to India.

Indian American Representative Pramila Jayapal, who is on the left in the Democratic Party criticised the BJP and the RSS saying that minorities were in danger. She said that in a recent visit to India she found that even Hindus were fearful, and the media was under pressure.

She launched a strong criticism of the government's actions in Kashmir and said that she would be introducing a resolution on Kashmir.

Representative Ilhan Omar, a leftist Democrat, picked up her refrain about the BJP and the RSS and hyperbolically warned of a "genocide".

Giving the moderate view of the Kashmir situation, another Indian-American Representative, Ami Bera, said that the US and India shared the core values of democracy and human rights and the "sooner we can get back to normalisation of communication and press and other being able to visit, I think it is in India's interest to do that and certainly in the world's interest."

Ted Yoho, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said that the Kashmir issue should remain between India and Pakistan and that repealing Article 370 was within India's means. But he said that India should remove the restriction in Kashmir and added, "We don't think anyone should live under those circumstances."

During the hearings that was to cover all of South Asia, most the discussions centred on India.

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