Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal concerned over reports of religious intolerance in India.
A bipartisan Congressional Commission held a hearing on November 14 on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir region of India since revocation of its special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
The situation in the region has remained tense since the Indian government revoked its special status on August 5 and divided the border state into two centrally ruled union territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Anurima Bhargava, Commissioner, US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), testified at the hearing on ‘Jammu and Kashmir in Context,’ organized by The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, DC. The co-chairs of the event were Democrat James P McGovern and Republican Christopher H Simth.
Panelists included international human rights lawyer and Kashmiri American Yousra Fazili, community activist, author and human rights lawyer Arjun Sethi, Director of the Center for Law, Justice & Culture Haley Duschinski, Kashmiri American attorney Sehla Ashai and Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch John Sifton.
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Commenting on the current situation in Kashmir, Bhargava said: “Religious freedom conditions in India experienced a downward trend in 2018, a trend that unfortunately has continued and appears to be accelerating in 2019.”
“Religious freedom and the rights and religious freedom of Muslim communities are being curtailed as a consequence of the Indian government’s actions,” she said.
“Throughout the country, political and community leaders are promulgating an ideology that suggests that to be an Indian is necessarily to be Hindu and views India’s religious minorities as subordinate or foreign,” Bhargava said.
“India’s religious minorities currently stand at a precipice,” she said. “If the Indian government continues on its current trajectory, their livelihood, rights and freedoms could be in serious danger.”
Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal from Washington’s 7th Congressional District also attended the event. She expressed her deep concerns over reports of religious intolerance, communication blockades and indefinite detention in Kashmir.
Later tweeting about the event, South Asian American activist and lawyer Deepa Iyer wrote: “Inspired by the brave Kashmiri witnesses and allies who spoke truth to power. Kudos to the Kashmiri community for organizing this hearing in Congress. ”
Watch the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission testimonies: