Resolution urges US Congress to oppose use of force in Kashmir

WASHINGTON: A resolution introduced in the US House of Representatives urges Congress to forbid any use of force against civilian populations in India-held Kashmir, either by governmental or nongovernmental actors.

The resolution, moved by Congress­woman Rashida Tlaib, also urges Congress to “oppose and condemn the use of pellet shotguns and rubber bullets as a crowd-control method in any case”.

Tlaib, a Democrat from the 13th district of the state of Michigan, is a Palestinian Arab and a leading human rights campaigner. Tlaib was among the first US lawmakers to condemn India’s Aug 5 decision to annex Kashmir and urges India to reconsider its decision, stop human rights violations and respect basic rights of the Kashmir — issues she also raises in this resolution.

The resolution asks Congress to “affirm that any changes to the status of Jammu and Kashmir must be made with the direct consultation of the Kashmiri people, who must play a central role in the determination of their future.”

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It wants India to immediately lift all remaining elements of the communications blockade imposed in Jammu and Kashmir, including restoring phone and internet access and refraining from any interference with the provision of medical treatment.

Resolution 724 condemns human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and supports Kashmiri self-determination.

The resolution notes that India has unilaterally changed the status of Jammu and Kashmir without a direct consultation or the consent of the Kashmiri people.

It also notes that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported gross human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir.

The resolution points out that India has enforced a strict curfew in Jammu and Kashmir that has restricted freedom of expression, assembly, and movement.

It notes on Aug 5, India enacted a communications blockade in Jammu and Kashmir that includes the suspension of landlines and shutdown of mobile phone networks and internet access, and service has only been partially restored as of Oct 14.

The resolution informs Congress that Kashmiri Americans and Kashmiris around the world have had difficulty or been unable to contact their family members since the imposition of the communications blockade on Aug 5.

Noting that the communication blockade has inhibited access to life-saving medical care in Kashmir, that resolution points out that India was also using “excessive force against civilians”.

To suppress the people of Kashmir, India was also using pellet shotguns, tear gas, and rubber bullets against protesters, as reported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the resolution adds.

It notes that India has used the arrest and indefinite detention of thousands of people to control civilians of all ages, including minors as young as nine. To do so, it’s using the Public Safety Act, which violates Article 9(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The resolution points out that detentions and harassment of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir has been reported by independent observers and journalistic organisations. Similarly, the right to religious expression has been severely curtailed, including the closures of mosques and religious buildings, it adds.

The resolution notes that India has barred senior US officials and foreign journalists from travelling to Jammu and Kashmir since Aug 5 and these actions “are not reflective of the shared democratic norms and values between the United States and India”.

It notes that Indian actions constitute violations of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The resolution points out that India has failed to hold its military accountable and perpetuated a state of impunity for members of the Indian armed forces and related security services, in part through the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The resolution informs Congress that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued reports in 2018 and 2019, calling for India and Pakistan to implement policy recommendations to safeguard human rights.

It refers to another UN report, saying that militant groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, and Harakat Ul-Mujahidin have also contributed to the harsh conditions and dire human rights situation faced by civilians in held Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2019