US congressional subcommittee to focus on occupied Kashmir in hearing on human rights

A US congressional subcommittee will hold a hearing on ‘Human Rights in South Asia’ on October 22 with a focus on occupied Kashmir.

“The hearing will focus on the Kashmir Valley, where many political activists have been arrested and daily life, the internet, and telephone communications have been interrupted,” read a press release issued on Sept 30 by the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia, Congressman Brad Sherman.

It added that the subcommittee hearing will review the humanitarian situation in occupied Kashmir as well as whether Kashmiris have “adequate supplies” of food, medicine, and other essentials.

Since the Indian government on August 5 repealed Article 370 of its constitution — stripping occupied Kashmir of its special status — a strict lock-down and communications blackout has suffocated the region into silence. It has now been in place for 59 days.

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“In August, I had an opportunity to meet with Americans from Kashmir Valley in the San Fernando Valley, along with my colleague Congressman André Carson (D-IN). We heard stories of difficulties encountered by my constituents and others, and the fears they have for their loved ones. Since then I have had several additional meetings with Kashmiri Americans. I look forward to learning more about human rights in Kashmir,” said the American congressman.

As per the press release, top State Department official for South Asia, Alice Wells, and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Scott Busby, will testify during the meeting on Oct 22. Additionally, Sherman said that other State Department officials have been invited and they also expect to hear from private human rights activists on the issues.

Last week, Wells said that the US had serious concerns over the clampdown in occupied Kashmir.

“We hope to see rapid action — the lifting of the restrictions and the release of those who have been detained,” Wells had told reporters.

“The United States is concerned by widespread detentions, including those of politicians and business leaders, and the restrictions on the residents of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said, adding: “We look forward to the Indian government’s resumption of political engagement with local leaders and the scheduling of the promised elections at the earliest opportunity.”

The upcoming subcommittee hearing will also focus on other issues such as the Tamils of Sri Lanka, the human rights situation in Pakistan, including in Sindh and Muslims in Assam