US lawmaker finds arrests in occupied Kashmir, detention camps in Assam ‘troubling’

Updated August 26, 2019

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Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan, Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, appealed to the international community “not to let India turn Kashmir into a concentration camp” and to “pay heed to the plight of Kashmiris facing a grave humanitarian crisis.” — Photo: Screengrab/United States Institute of Peace Youtube channel/File
Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan, Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, appealed to the international community “not to let India turn Kashmir into a concentration camp” and to “pay heed to the plight of Kashmiris facing a grave humanitarian crisis.” — Photo: Screengrab/United States Institute of Peace Youtube channel/File

WASHINGTON: The Indian plans to set up large-scale detention camps for Muslims in Assam and arresting thousands in Kashmir have “deeply troubled” Pramila Jayapal, the first and only India-born lawmaker in the US House of Representatives.

“Deeply troubled by reports of Indian government’s arrests of 2,000 in Kashmir. This on top of reported plans for large-scale government detention camps for Muslims,” she wrote in a tweet released this weekend.

In a similar tweet, Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also expressed his concerns on the situation in the occupied Kashmir.

“The situation in Kashmir remains deeply concerning, with thousands of civilians still detained without charges and with no access to the outside world,” he wrote.

Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan, Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, appealed to the international community “not to let India turn Kashmir into a concentration camp” and to “pay heed to the plight of Kashmiris facing a grave humanitarian crisis.”

A Washington Post factchecker, released this weekend, noted that even pellets and live bullets have failed to subdue the people of Kashmir who continued protesting across the valley against the Indian occupation.

Referring to the Indian government’s claim that Kashmir was calm, the Post added that “video and eyewitness accounts” released with the factchecker “show a different story.”

The visuals the Post released showed large demonstrations throughout the occupied territory. Some videos also showed Indian security forces firing pellets and live bullets into the crowds protesting India’s Aug 5 decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status.

Although India “enforced an unprecedented communications blackout in the area,” some media groups succeeded in sending across videos and pictures of the protests that started on the Indian Independence Day and have continued since then.

The videos forced Indian authorities to acknowledge that they had fired “pellets and live bullets” into the crowds, the Post reported.

An Amnesty International report notes that security forces in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir have been using pump-action shotguns firing metal pellets in the Kashmir valley since at least 2010.

“These inherently inaccurate shotguns fire hundreds of metal pellets which spread over a wide area. Their use has blinded hundreds and killed at least 14 people since July 2016,” the report adds. “The effects of these weapons will be felt for years to come.”

Congresswoman Jayapal reminded New Delhi that “using fear and hyper-patriotism to suppress dissent is as detrimental in India as it is America.”

“Democracy requires transparency, due process and freedom of assembly and speech. These are absolutely essentials, even in the most complex of situations,” she added.

Congressman Schiff reminded India that “fundamental human rights like free speech and access to information must be protected.”

Both lawmakers attached a New York Times report to their tweets, saying that the whereabouts of the people rounded up in Kashmir since Aug 5 remained unknown. “Kashmiri politicians, business owners, activists and scholars are among those swept up as India tightens its grip — critics say illegally — on the territory,” the report added.

Another US lawmaker, Congressman Peter King met Consul General of India in New York to discuss India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir. “Told him I understood India’s action and had concerns over Islamist elements in Pakistan and Kashmir. But because of sensitivity and both countries being nuclear powers urged need to seek diplomatic solution,” he wrote.

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said that India’s decision to change the status quo in Jammu and Kashmir “must be addressed” before it leads to a further escalation of tensions with Pakistan.

Senator Graham, in tweets released after India revoked Kashmir’s special status, said that he spoke to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the “growing crisis” in Kashmir and expressed hope that the “Trump administration would help de-escalate the current crisis.”

“Hope the Trump administration will provide assistance to both Pakistan and India to find a way to de-escalate the current crisis. The last thing the region and the world needs is further military confrontations between India and Pakistan over Kashmir,” the senator added.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2019