US Rep. Pramila Jayapal Calls on the Indian Government to End Arbitrary Detentions, Address Human Rights Issues in Kashmir

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Pramila Jayapal (Photo: Twitter)

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) applauded Dr. Mubeen Shah, a prominent Kashmiri business leader who was arbitrarily detained as part of India’s crackdown on political and business leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, being granted permanent release from prison.

Jayapal also called on the Indian government to end all arbitrary detentions, and address human rights issues in Jammu and Kashmir. On Saturday, Dr. Shah was granted temporary release by the Indian Government, and on Friday, Jayapal introduced a bipartisan House Resolution 745 to urge the Indian government to end the restrictions on communications and mass detentions in Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents. 

Dr. Shah is the uncle of Jayapal’s constituent, Nafisa Muzaffar. Jayapal raised Dr. Shah’s case directly with the Deputy Indian Ambassador to the United States after Muzaffar wrote to and met with Jayapal to ask for help.

“I’m so happy for Dr. Shah and his entire family, especially his niece and my constituent, Nafisa. This is a huge victory for justice, and I’m glad the Indian Government has finally heeded my call to grant Dr. Shah permanent release. Now, India must end the arbitrary detentions of the thousands of others it has imprisoned in Kashmir without any due process. It must end the abuse of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. It must lift restrictions on cell phones and internet access, protect free speech and peaceful protest, and condemn all religiously motivated violence at the highest levels across India. As two democracies with a special and critical relationship, it’s more important than ever to ensure human rights are protected regardless of the circumstances,” said Jayapal, the first Indian American woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

After Dr. Shah was granted temporary release over the weekend, Jayapal said, “It’s a big step forward for justice that Dr. Shah has been granted a temporary release after four months of being detained without any due process—a clear violation of his human rights. After hearing from his niece, Nafisa Muzaffar, I repeatedly pressed senior officials from the Indian government and the U.S. State Department in private meetings and public hearings about Dr. Shah’s case. Dr. Shah’s detention without charges by the Indian government is one of thousands of deeply unjust detentions without explanation or due process. I call on the Indian government to grant Dr. Shah a permanent release so he can travel outside the country and obtain the medical care he so desperately needs—and end its arbitrary detentions and abuse of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir.”

According to news reports, after revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and autonomy, the Indian government has arrested and held at least 4,000 people under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone in Jammu and Kashmir for up to two years without charge or trial. Dr. Shah’s release – the first reported release of a person detained under the PSA – comes after Jayapal introduced her bipartisan House Resolution 745 to urge the Indian government to end the restrictions on communications and mass detentions in Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents. Text of the resolution is available hereU.S. Representative Steve Watkins (R-KS) is an original co-sponsor of the resolution.

“As the world’s largest democracy, India shares a unique and important relationship with the United States. I’m proud to have lived my own life in the world’s two greatest democracies—as a citizen of India for 35 years, and now as a proud American citizen and member of Congress. I have fought to strengthen this special U.S.-India relationship, which is why I am deeply concerned by the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir. Detaining people without charge, severely limiting communications, and blocking neutral third parties from visiting the region is harmful to our close, critical bilateral relationship. India must quickly lift restrictions on cell phones and internet access, release arbitrarily detained people, protect free speech and peaceful protest, and condemn all religiously motivated violence at the highest levels across India,” said Jayapal on the introduction of her bipartisan resolution. “I hope to work with the Indian government and my colleagues in Congress to strengthen the U.S.-India partnership, while protecting the human rights of the Kashmiri people.

On October 23, at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the state of human rights in South Asia, Jayapal called on senior State Department officials to address human rights issues in Jammu and Kashmir, including its mass detentions without due process and communications blockade. During the hearing, Jayapal pressed Assistant Secretary of State Alice G. Wells for answers about the case of Dr. Shah and pressed the State Department to act with a sense of urgency.  

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