The situation in Jammu and Kashmir will be in focus on Tuesday as the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs holds a hearing on human rights in South Asia. It is expected that a sub-committee headed by Congressman Brad Sherman will have questions particularly on the Kashmir.
US Assistant Secretary of State, Alice Wells, who oversees the State Department policy towards South Asia will testify before the committee. Her statement, which will be read out before the committee, notes that India’s decision on Article 370 was “driven by desire to increase economic development, reduce corruption and uniformly apply all national laws in Jammu and Kashmir.”
She says in her report that while the State Department supports these objectives, it “remains concerned about the situation in the Kashmir valley, where daily life for nearly eight million residents has been severely impacted since August 5.”
Her report also claims that “clashes between youth and security forces is a regular occurrence,” though the Indian government has said there have been some minor protests but by and large it has remained under control.
An internal report of the Ministry of Home Affairs accessed by News 18 has said 300 plus clashes have happened since August 5.
The chair of the committee, Brad Sherman, had said in a statement on September 30 that 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.”
He had pointed out that much of his information had been gathered from his meeting “with Americans from Kashmir Valley in the San Fernando Valley” from whom he learnt “stories of difficulties encountered by constituents and others, and the fears they have for their loved ones. Since then I have had several additional meetings with Kashmiri Americans.”
In view of this, India stepped up its efforts in the run-up to the committee hearing to present their version. India’s Ambassador in the US, Harshvardhan Shringla, held a meeting with Sherman on October 10. Sherman tweeted to say he asked “serious questions” on Kashmir.
The statement also expresses concern over reports of “local and foreign militants attempting to intimidate local residents and business owners in order to stymie normal economic activity.”
The statement very categorically mentions that Pakistan’s harbouring of terror groups like LeT and JeM which seek to foment trouble across the LoC is destabilising and Pakistani authorities remain accountable for their actions.
Apart from Alice Wells, the committee hearing will include Assistant Secretary Robert A Destro, Francisco Bencosme from Amnetsy International, Chairman of the National Advisory Council for South Asian Affairs Ravi Batra, Sindhi-American human rights activist Fatima Gul and Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo.