Modi taking India away from democracy, Kashmir crackdown is authoritarianism: US Congressman - IAMC

Modi taking India away from democracy, Kashmir crackdown is authoritarianism: US Congressman


Washington, DC (April 21, 2022) – US Congressman Andy Levin, member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, strongly condemned the human rights abuses committed by Indian security forces against Kashmiri Muslims.

During a special Congressional Briefing titled “India’s Brutal Persecution of Kashmir,” organized by 17 American human rights groups, including the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), on April 20, Congressman Levin called for international attention on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Kashmir.

“While Kashmir may not be in the nightly news, what’s happening there deserves the world’s attention, and it’s still a prime example of how Prime Minister Modi is taking India in the wrong direction in terms of human rights and democracy,” said Congressman Levin.

Quoting reports of various human rights groups documenting the rights abuses and intensified crackdown in Kashmir after revoking the territory’s special autonomous status,  he cautioned that abuses were “not happening in a vacuum… these abuses are part of a worrying trend towards authoritarianism.”

Congressman Levin further emphasized the need for the United States to take a clear stance on India’s human rights violations and make clear that “the US cares about what happens in Kashmir and that we expect better of democracies like India.”

Other prominent academics and activists echoed Congressman Levin’s concerns, including Govind Acharya, the India/Kashmir Specialist and previous board member of Amnesty International USA.

“We just cannot forget the victims of these human rights violations of the past, because it really impacts what’s happening now, where Indian authorities have repeatedly denied justice on a wide variety of grounds. We also can never forget the families and friends who will never see their loved ones. We must demand accountability and justice for those perpetrating these abuses,” said Acharya.

Sonali Dhawan, who is Asia Researcher with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP), highlighted the individual cases of media persons targeted in Kashmir, including photojournalists Kamran Yousuf and Manan Dar, trainee reporter Sajad Gul, journalist Fahad Shah, and prominent founder and editor of the newspaper Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari, labeling the attacks as “extremely disturbing.”

“Legal harassment, physical attacks, threats, and raids on their homes and those of their family members have become the new norm for Kashmiri journalists since August 2019,” said Dhawan.

Zaki Barzinji, Board Member for Americans for Kashmir, followed up with strong calls to action from members of Congress, particularly those who are planning visits to India in the near future.

“We know that we cannot together confront global authoritarianism when our own so-called democratic allies are not acting like democracies… We call on [Congressional] offices to stand up and directly hold the Indian government accountable for its actions,” said Barzinji.

“We also urge you to make public statements, especially when it comes to the detention of journalists and human rights defenders,” he added. “I promise you, you will not be going out on a limb to tweet a statement from CPJ about Faisal Shah or from Amnesty about Khurram Parvez. But your voice, in particular, has immense weight.”

“It is important to frame [these issues] as part of—if not integral to—the increasingly violent, virulent, and fascist Hindu Nationalism championed by Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi… Since 2019, the Indian government has pursued policies to sell Kashmir out from under Kashmiris—by military force if necessary– impoverish native Kashmiris, and repopulate Kashmir with loyalists of the Hindu Nationalist government,” said Dr. Dean Accardi, Assistant Professor of History at Connecticut College.

“It is well-documented that across India the BJP runs on an anti-minority agenda, and that the erasure of Kashmir’s autonomy and dilution of its Muslim majority by way of settler colonialism has been one of its rallying cries,” said Dr. Ather Zia, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Northern Colorado.

“Peace or justice or accountability in Kashmir requires addressing the violent role of the state in the protracted conflict, the mass crimes committed by state forces in Kashmir, [and] the precise targeting of Kashmiri Muslims,” said Dr. Angana Chatterji, co-founder of the People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice.

Raids on human rights defenders and journalists, said Dr. Mona Bhan, Ford Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies at Syracuse University, “are carried out under the pretext of investigating terror funding circuits, a smokescreen that India has used to shield itself from international outrage against the systematic denial of fundamental human rights and dignity to Kashmiris.”

“From 2016 to the present, India has refused to allow access to UN fact-finding missions, prompting the OHCHR to issue these reports on the human rights situation in Kashmir through remote monitoring mechanisms,” said Dr. Haley Duschinski, associate professor of Anthropology at Ohio University.

Ashok Kumar Pandey, author and historian, addressed the misinformation presented by the propaganda film The Kashmir Files, supported and promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“The fact is there was a warlike situation in the 1990s, and whoever was considered to be pro-India was attacked. The truth is more than 50,000 Kashmiri Muslims also fled from Kashmir… the tragedy of killings did not stop, even after the Pandit exodus. And for the last 32 years we are regularly witnessing killings of general people… in Kashmir,” said Pandey.

“Standing up for the rights of majority Muslim community in Kashmir today does not mean that we do not recognize and empathize with the Kashmiri Pandit community,” said Raju Rajagopal, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights. “Human rights is not a zero-sum game. Those who may accuse us of being ‘anti-Pandit’ and ‘anti-Hindu’ only show their own ignorance of our world view of human and civil rights.”

The briefing was co-hosted by Genocide Watch, World Without Genocide, Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Jubilee Campaign,  21Wilberforce, Dalit Solidarity Forum, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, India Civil Watch International, Center for Pluralism, American Muslim Institution, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, International Society for Peace and Justice, The Humanism Project and Association of Indian Muslims of America.