A bill has been introduced in the US House of Representatives by Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal asking India to end restrictions on mass detentions and communications in Kashmir and ensure religious freedom.
“Yesterday, I introduced a bipartisan House Resolution with @Rep_Watkins to urge the Indian government to end restrictions on communications and mass detentions in Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents”, Jayapal said in a tweet.
The bill will raise heckles in India as the government has maintained that security measures are necessary to ensure peace and harmony in the valley.
It has been supported by Republican Congressman Steve Watkins from Kansas.
Jayapal is a Democrat and serves as Congresswoman from Washington’s 7th Congressional District which covers most of Seattle.
She is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives, the district’s first female member of Congress, and also the first Asian-American to represent Washington in Congress.
Before entering electoral politics, Jayapal was a Seattle-based civil rights activist, serving until 2012 as the executive director of OneAmerica, a pro-immigrant advocacy group.
Jayapal currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus,and serves on both the Judiciary and Budget committees; Jayapal is the only member of Congress from Washington on the Judiciary Committee.
“The Indian government must quickly lift restrictions on cell phones and internet access, release arbitrarily detained people, protect free speech and peaceful protest, and condemn all religiously motivated violence at the highest levels across India”, Jayapal tweeted.
“I have fought to strengthen the special U.S-India relationship, which is why I’m deeply concerned. Detaining people w/out charge, severely limiting communications, & blocking neutral third-parties from visiting the region is harmful to our close, critical bilateral relationship,” she added.
“I have fought to strengthen this special US-India relationship, which is why I am deeply concerned that the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir,” she said in another tweet.
“I hope to work with the Indian government and my colleagues in Congress to strengthen the .S-India partnership, while protecting the human rights of the Kashmiri people.
“As the world’s largest democracy, India shares a unique and important relationship with the United States. I’m proud to have lived my own life in the world’s two greatest democracies-as a citizen of India for 35 years, and now as a proud American citizen and member of Congress,” Jayapal added.
The Bill resolves that the House of Representatives recognizes the dire security challenges faced by the Indian government in Jammu and Kashmir and the continuing threat of state-supported cross-border terrorism.
It also resolved that it rejects arbitrary detention, use of excessive force against civilians, and suppression of peaceful expression of dissent as proportional responses to security challenges.
“Urges the Government of India to ensure that any actions taken in pursuit of legitimate security priorities respect the human rights of all people and adhere to international human rights law; and urges the Government of India to lift the remaining restrictions on communication and to restore internet access across all of Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible.”
It urged the government of India to “refrain from the use of threats and excessive force against detained people and peaceful protesters; swiftly release arbitrarily detained people in Jammu and Kashmir; refrain from conditioning the release of detained people on their willingness to sign bonds prohibiting any political activities and speeches”.
It also sought to “allow international human rights observers and journalists to access Jammu and Kashmir and operate freely throughout India,without threats; and condemn, at the highest levels, all religiously motivated violence, including that violence which targets against religious minorities”.