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Panel Two of a Hearing of the Human Rights and Wellness Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee on Human Rights Abuses in Kashmir

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Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service

HEADLINE: PANEL TWO OF A HEARING OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND WELLNESS SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE

SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN KASHMIR AND THE DISPUTED TERRITORIES

CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE DAN BURTON (R-IN)

WITNESS: T. KUMAR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

LOCATION: 2247 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

BODY:

REP. BURTON: Okay, Mr. Kumar, thank you very much for being here. Do you have an opening statement, sir?

-BREAK OF TRANSCRIPT-

REP. JOSEPH R. PITTS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I've been to Azad Kashmir, four times. I have not been permitted by the Indian government to go to Indian Kashmir, although I have been to India a couple of times and requested that. I would like to see, for instance, a CODEL go and visit both Pakistan, India, go to Azad Kashmir, and go to India Kashmir and talk to all the parties involved.

When I was in Azad Kashmir, the journalists were there, the human rights groups were there. Are you permitted to go to India Kashmir as Amnesty International-can you, as a human rights organization, go there?

MR. KUMAR: No, we don't have access to Indian Kashmir-not only Kashmir but other parts of India as well. They are part of the clear problems and also on the Pakistani side, we don't ask, but we just get the indication from Pakistanis that we will be blocked from going there. But the Indian side, yes, we were not allowed to go there.

REP. PITTS: Well, every time I've been to Azad Kashmir, I hold a town meeting with the men and boys. I see the men and boys whose arms and legs are hacked off by the Indians and talk to them. Now, unfortunately, our government doesn't give aid, but I reached out to NGOs to have gotten 2,000 wheelchairs and crutches and walkers and some little humanitarian aid to those IDPs there.

If the United States were to provide assistance to the Kashmiris, what type of assistance would you suggest that the United States government provide? Number one.

Number two, if the United States government were to be involved in any way, what role do you see them playing in helping encourage the peaceful dialogue?

And then, thirdly, you mentioned the use of rape as a weapon of terror. We heard the same report when I met with the Kashmiris there. What is the best way to pressure all sides to stop using rape as a weapon of terror in your opinion?

MR. KUMAR: First, coming back to your last question of using rape during the operations-I mean, using rape as a weapon of terror may be part of it. I mentioned in my opening remarks that it's been used by the Indian armed forces, also the armed separatist group on the Indian side. The best way is from at least on the Indian side, Indian government, they can bring people to justice. They can prosecute them, they can charge them, they can punish them-send a very strong signal not only to Kashmiri women, but women at large in India that the Indian government will not tolerate these types of abuses against women. That's important for the Indian government, for their own self-interests-not because of anything-just purely on their own self-interests they should have a special body to look into that.

Now, for militant groups, it's everybody's guess I mean how to control them. But at least Indians can control themselves.

The second question, of political solutions, what can be done, we are not a political organization, but I can only comment that without having human rights addressed first, even though you can argue whether it's a chicken-and-egg issue, we strongly believe human rights can be addressed before political solutions, the reason being India can punish their soldiers before-before a political settlement happens. It's under their control. They can do it today. They can initiate campaigns basically sending political message and arresting people and punishing them. And Pakistani government also-very easy for the Pakistani government, because they are not-they can just repeal all those laws and allow Kashmiris under their control to express their views, and not to force them to take root that Jammu and Kashmir will be part of Pakistan. So these two governments can start the process without even sitting at the table to talk about peace or how to solve the problem. The armed groups are the third entity which as I mentioned earlier is everyone's guess.

Coming back to the aid, it's obviously Pakistani side and -- (inaudible) -- Indian side too separately. On the Pakistani side, I will say the administration can give aid to those IDPs or refugees-whichever term you can use it because it's all political terms. And also that falls under these victims of human rights abuses.

On the Indian side it's going to be very tricky. We don't know how we are going to channel the funds to the victims there. I mean, obviously you can do it-fund it-but I doubt even funds in refugee camps-that I doubt the Indian government will allow, because their standard policy about UNHCR, getting and doing there it is very strict. I mean, that's their policy. We are not commenting on that. They are taking care of thousands-if not thousands, millions of refugees. So they may have a reason not to allow UNHCR. But I will say when it comes to Kashmir proper, then you can always say that any aid to empower the accountability and documentation of human rights can be a first step.

I also forgot to mention about Buddhists. I mentioned both the Hindus and Muslims-I mean, these are all Kashmiris. There is also Ladakh population, who are Buddhist. They are also-I mean, they are not facing the brunt of the abuses. They are also in the middle. They are also getting beaten up. So by the end of the day everyone-it's equal opportunity abuse that's going on in Kashmir by the government of India, by the militants and the Pakistanis. Thank you.

REP. PITTS: Thank you. My time is up. I would just like to say, having seen the beauty and the potential of Kashmir there is great potential for economic prosperity there. But until the issue of Kashmir is settled, the people of Kashmir will never realize the stability, the peace, the economic prosperity that they deserve. Thank you.

REP. BURTON: Thank you, Joe, Mr. Pitts.

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