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India, Pakistan gear up for Human Rights in South Asia hearing on Tuesday | India News

WASHINGTON: Even the title of the hearing is bitterly contested. For Pakistan and the Kashmiri Muslim separatists it supports, the hearing is, or at least should be, on the human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir. For India and its nationalist brigade, including the Kashmiri Pandit community, it is a broader scrutiny on Human Rights in South Asia (which indeed is the formal heading as listed in the Congressional records) that will also examine the plight of minorities in the subcontinent, including for the first time hearing about the ethnic cleansing of Pandits from the Valley.
Both sides are gearing up for the testimonies before the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation scheduled for Tuesday morning in a city that is consumed all the time with myriad turbulent domestic and international issues, and even more so now. The Indian side is relieved that the hearing is not focused narrowly on the Kashmir Valley and will examine human rights issues beyond, including the plight of Sindhis in Pakistan and Tamils in Sri Lanka. Pakistanis are dismayed that what they expected would be scrutiny of Indian action in Kashmir has been diluted, but still hope to bring the focus back on it.
Although Pakistanis have gone to town about the hearing focusing on human rights issues in Kashmir, a press release by the subcommittee, headed by California Congressman Brad Sherman, states that the event ”will also focus on the Tamils of Sri Lanka, the human rights situation in Pakistan, including the Sindh Province and Muslims in Assam.”
The subcommittee has listed Assistant Secretary Alice Wells, who oversees all State Department policy towards South Asia to testify in the morning session, along with Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Scott Busby, who oversees human rights efforts in South Asia. The afternoon session will see testimony from civil society activists, including Nitasha Kaul, Associate Professor in Politics at University of Westminster, Angana Chatterji, Research Anthropologist at the Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley, Fatima Gul, a Sindhi-American Human Rights, and Francisco Bencosme, Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager with Amnesty International.
Pakistanis and their Kashmiri proxies are upset that no Muslims from Kashmir are testifying before the committee, although the Indian side expects Chatterji, who they see as being ”anti-Indian” to ”do the job for Pakistan.” An anthropologist who co-founded the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir, Chatterji is viewed with suspicion by the Indian establishment, which once deported her and husband Richard Shapiro from India for Kashmir-related political activism while on a tourist visa.
While Pakistan continues with its nuclear alarmism and hysteria over what New Delhi regards as a domestic issue – a position Washington and the international community has largely accepted – Indian diplomats have had to put in some hard work to convince US interlocutors that, firstly, the disquiet following the move to remove special status for Jammu & Kashmir, was restricted to the Valley, and two, the situation is returning to normal, and will stabilize even sooner but for the threat held out by extremists who have a vested interest in the unrest continuing.
The Indian side is also arguing that while Pakistan has had a run of the human rights situation it brought about with its subversive support to terrorism in the Kashmir Valley, there has not been sufficient scrutiny of Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism, the ethnic cleansing of Pandits from Kashmir, and Pakistan’s own treatment of its minorities.




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