Fresh from a bruising US congressional hearing on Kashmir, India will likely see yet another set of critical voices at Capitol Hill on Thursday.
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (set up by his family members after his death) currently led by Jim McGovern (Democrat) and Chris Smith (Republican) have called for a hearing on November 14 to “examine the human rights situation in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in India in historical and national context.”
Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time this particular commission would be holding hearings critical of India. In 2014 and 2015, it heard depositions on the plight of religious minorities in India, and on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The commission does not enjoy the authority to write legislation but it can lobby and raise awareness on the Hill. The hearing will not make a material difference to official US policy, but it would be one more lobbying effort sponsored and supported by Pakistan against India on Capitol Hill at a time when the bipartisan consensus on India is fragile. The panelists who are scheduled to speak at the hearing, say sources in Washington, are not likely to give credence to the Indian point of view.
Among the panelists, Haley Duschinski is co-founder of the Critical Kashmir Studies collective of academic researchers studying Kashmir. She is also part of the Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network (KSCAN), which has been engaging in advocacy against India following the abrogation of Art 370 by the BJP government. Yousra Y Fazili is an attorney and writer based in Washington DC where she works on middle-east and south Asian policy but more importantly, is the niece of Mubeen Shah -- Kashmiri businessman currently under arrest. Sehla Ashai is a senior staff attorney at the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, where she represents Muslim-American clients facing discrimination in immigration matters. Of Kashmiri origin, she has been openly critical of the Indian move to nullify Art 370 describing Narendra Modi as a “fascist”. Arjun Singh Sethi is a civil rights lawyer, working closely with Muslim, Arab, south Asian, and Sikh communities and is an expert in policing, the war on terror, and racial and religious profiling, and a recent author of an article opposing the Gates award to Modi. John Sifton, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, has been critical of India’s human rights record, not only in Kashmir, but also recently criticised “cow protection” groups that have been accused of lynchings in parts of north India. A separate panel will be addressed by Anurima Bhargava, commissioner to the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), bipartisan entity established by the US Congress to monitor threats to religious freedom in other countries.