Jayapal speaks up against Jaishankar’s refusal to attend a meeting in her presence

indica News Bureau-


Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat, represents Washington’s 7th Congressional District in the House of Representatives spoke up against the refusal by the Indian External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar to attend a meeting in Capitol Hill in her presence, as she had earlier passed a bill asking India to stop atrocities in Kashmir and restore the freedom of the residents of the state. The Hill reported that she called it a sign of weakness.

“I am proud to have lived my life in two of the world’s great democracies — as a citizen of India for almost 35 years, and today, as a proud American citizen and the first Indian American woman elected to the House of Representatives”, she said.

Adding that USA and India are the two largest democracies of the world and share a unique relationship because during the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. identified Mahatma Gandhi and his movement for nonviolent resistance as a core inspiration, she said that it was surprising for her when Jaishankar refused to attend the meeting in Capitol Hill as she was also present there. She added that the support of her colleagues in not bowing down to Jaishankar’s demand was appreciable.

“Rep. Engel rightly refused to accede to the demand; it is wholly inappropriate for any foreign government to try to dictate which members of Congress participate in meetings on Capitol Hill. It’s also a sign of weakness for any great democracy to refuse to allow those who have some criticisms to participate in a meeting — a giant missed opportunity for two countries that value dialogue and dissent”, she added.

The resolution passed by Jayapal was narrowly crafted to focus on three issues: lifting the communications blackout that has been imposed on Kashmir since August, ending detentions without charges and respecting religious freedom.

Commenting on the current situation and her visit to India in 2017, she said that she had raised the issues of freedom in India to Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly in 2017 with then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Engel on a congressional delegation.

“Unfortunately, the situation in India has gotten far worse since that visit. There has been a spike in attacks against religious minorities throughout India. The Indian government’s imposition of a media blackout in Kashmir is now the longest-running Internet shutdown ever to occur in a democracy. While some landlines have been restored, millions still have no access to mobile services or the Internet. Foreign journalists have largely been kept out of the region and even Indian members of Parliament have been unable to visit the area. Hospitals have been unable to get supplies, emergency health services have been severely disrupted and people with serious health conditions have been unable to access critical medicines”, Jayapal said, adding, “Disturbingly, the Indian government has also “taken into preventive custody” over 5,000 Kashmiris, including about 144 children — many under the Public Safety Act, a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone in Kashmir for up to two years without charge or trial. These “preventive” arrests afford detainees no due process and are clear violations of international human rights. As of Dec. 4, 609 people remained in custody in and outside of Kashmir.”

Jayapal has been advocating her constituents since August in one way or the other.

“Over the past few months, I have consistently spoken with individuals who have provided criticism and defense of the Indian government’s actions. Prior to introduction of the resolution, I had two meetings scheduled with the Indian ambassador to the United States, both of which were canceled by the ambassador’s office. I have attended two congressional hearings on the issues in India, one in the House Foreign Affairs Committee and one with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, where I have listened to expert testimony from the State Department and other witnesses”, said Jayapal.

She added that during the time the Democrats introduced our resolution on Kashmir, India passed a new citizenship law that excluded Muslim migrants from its majority-Muslim neighbors from a new pathway to citizenship. She called it an “unprecedented break from India’s secular constitution”.

“Taken together with the National Register for Citizens — a citizenship survey piloted in the state of Assam that led to the exclusion of nearly 2 million people from the state’s citizenship records — many fear this new citizenship law could be used to prevent Muslim migrants from becoming citizens and voting. And on Friday, the Indian government issued an advisory demanding that cable television stations in the country abstain from broadcasting any content that “promotes anti-national attitudes.”

She concluded by saying that Unites States had a responsibility to advocate for human rights around the world and as a member of Congress and as an Indian American, she will continue to speak up on fundamental principles of democracy such as freedom of the press, religious freedom and due process as this is the way democracies can thrive.