U.S. panel to hold hearing on South Asia on October 22

As India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar does the rounds of Washington think-tanks and government departments, articulating, among other things, India’s position on Kashmir and Article 370, a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives has finalised the date — October 22 — for its hearing on human rights in South Asia, with a focus on Kashmir. Congressman Brad Sherman, the Subcommittee’s Chair, had, in early September, announced that such a hearing would be held.

“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. The hearing will also review the humanitarian situation in Kashmir and whether Kashmiris have adequate supplies of food, medicine and other essentials,” a statement from Congressman Brad Sherman said.

Alice Wells, the State Department’s top official for South Asia, will be one of those testifying, as will Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Scott Busby. Other State Department officials and human rights activists have also been called to testify.

The hearing was, at least in part, a result of requests from California voters of South Asian origin. Since India’s abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, several members of Congress (mostly Democrats) have written letters to the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. President Donald Trump highlighting the conditions in Kashmir. “In August, I had an opportunity to meet with Americans from Kashmir Valley in the San Fernando Valley, along with my colleague Congressman André Carson (D-IN),” Mr. Sherman said. “We heard stories of difficulties encountered by my constituents and others, and the fears they have for their loved ones. Since then I have had several additional meetings with Kashmiri Americans. I look forward to learning more about human rights in Kashmir.” Mr. Sherman added.

However, the hearing will extend beyond Kashmir and will include the situation Muslims in Assam are facing (NRC), the situation of Tamils in Sri Lanka and the human rights situation in Pakistan’s Sindh Province. A hearing on human rights in Southeast Asia was held in July and a hearing on East Asia, with a focus on Hong Kong and the Uighur community (a Muslim minority group) in China, is planned.

“On August 30th, Congressman Sherman addressed human rights in China, Sri Lanka, and Sindh in an address at a National Press Club event for the International Day for the Victims of Enforced Disappearances,” the statement said.


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