- Evan Barrett
USCIRF Designates India as CPC
Updated: May 11, 2020
May 4th 2020
Last week’s major story: The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) rated India a “country of particular concern” or “CPC” last week. Of particular note: USCIRF decided to include a specific section on Kashmir for the first time, and noted the significant violations of religious freedom in the region.
Americans for Kashmir To Hold Briefing in Congress
A4k will hold a briefing “Kashmir Under the Shadow of COVID-19” with members of Congress and staff on Thursday May 7 at noon eastern time. The briefing will feature Representative Jayapal, Representative Watkins, and an expert panel that will provide updates on how COVID-19 has affected the situation in Kashmir. Interested staff can register for the briefing here.
Partial A4K Statement on CPC Designation
A4K commends USCIRF for holding the Indian government accountable for the rise in violence against religious minorities, and for highlighting the ongoing oppressive conditions faced by Kashmiris. USCIRF has shown leadership by identifying concrete actions that Congress and the Trump Administration must take to end India’s democratic backsliding and ensure the protection of basic rights for all communities across the region. A4K urges members of Congress and the President to follow suit and act immediately on these recommendations.
Read the full statement here
India Falls In World Press Freedom Index
In its annual ranking of countries, Reporters Without Borders has dropped India to 142nd of 180 countries in press freedom, citing the worsening situation in Kashmir. In addition to communication blackouts, journalists have been physically assaulted by authorities, charged on specious legal grounds, summoned for questioning by the military, and harassed to reveal sources. Most recently, Kashmiri journalist Masrat Zahra was targeted by the specious Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) simply for posting photos. Last week, Americans for Kashmir joined the Committee to Protect Journalists and over 70 other media and rights groups to demand Asian heads of state, including Prime Minister Modi, release jailed journalists and end their attacks on the free press.
In response to the report, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar appeared to threaten institutions that criticize India saying “Media in India enjoy absolute freedom. We will expose, sooner than later, those surveys that tend to portray bad picture about 'Freedom of Press' in India.”
Indian Government Argues Against Restoring 4G in Supreme Court
Despite international and domestic outcry, the Indian government continues to argue against restoring 4G internet in Jammu & Kashmir, this time in the Supreme Court of India. A three judge panel heard petitions from three groups arguing that 4G should be restored in J&K, and included educators and local businesses.
One petitioner specifically highlighted the danger that lack of high speed internet poses for coronavirus response: “Lawyer Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the court that the Covid-19 situation in J&K has worsened and added that problems are being faced by doctors who cannot access necessary information about coronavirus due to the internet speed. 75 doctors have also made a representation flagging the same concerns Ahmadi said.”
The government has responded that the high speed ban is “a question of national security” and that businesses and educators should access internet services through broadband. This recommendation is meaningless, as less than 1% of internet users in J&K have access to broadband.
It is significant to note the government’s argument that the situation in Kashmir has deteriorated after August 5th is at odds with officials claiming Kashmir was “normal” and “calm” in the wake of the August 5th revocation.