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Uphold democratic values on which India was founded: US Congressman on Kashmir situation

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

A US Congressman has urged the Indian government to uphold the democratic values upon which the country was founded while expressing concern over the prevailing situation in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.

The development comes days after Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal introduced a resolution on Kashmir in the House of Representatives.

The Chennai-born first-ever Indian-American woman elected to the House of Representatives has been one of the few lawmakers who are mostly from the Democratic Party raising their voices against the Indian government's move on Jammu and Kashmir.

"Madam Speaker, today I rise in support of democracy and freedom for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the importance of protecting religious minorities in the region," Congressman Steve Watkins said in his brief remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

In August the Indian government rescinded Article 370 of their Constitution, repealing autonomy of the region, alleged the Republican lawmaker from Kansas who last week joined Jayapal in introducing a resolution (HR 745) condemning India's decision on Kashmir.

"Since then, it has been cut off through widespread communications blackouts. There have been curfews, and some 4,000 people have been detained, which includes children as young as 9 years old," Watkins alleged.

There have been reported human rights abuses and deaths resulting from inaccessibility to healthcare, he said.

India has defended imposition of restrictions in Kashmir on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists following the abrogation of Article 370.

"Madam Speaker, this situation cannot stand, and I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting H Res. 745, which urges the Indian Government to uphold the democratic values upon which it was founded," Watkins said.

By Friday, six more lawmakers, including one from the Republican Party, have co-sponsored the resolution. They are Sheila Jackson Lee, Jim Schakowsky, Emanuel Cleaver, David Cicilline and Andre Carson from the Democratic Party. Congressman Jim Banks from the Republican Party is also among its co-sponsors.

"Yesterday was Human Rights Day and I'm proud to support human rights and democracy in Kashmir. I urge my colleagues to support H R 745," Watkins said in a tweet.

The resolution urges India to end as swiftly as possible restrictions on communications and alleged mass detentions in the Union Territory. The resolution urges India to lift the remaining restrictions on communication and to restore internet access across all of Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible.

While it recognises the dire security challenges faced by India in Jammu and Kashmir and the continuing threat of state-supported cross-border terrorism, the resolution urges India to refrain from the use of threats and excessive force against detained people and peaceful protesters.

It requests India to "swiftly release arbitrarily detained people" and "refrain from conditioning" the release of detained people on their willingness to sign bonds prohibiting any political activities and speeches.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, December 12 2019. 23:35 IST
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