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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Jammu and Kashmir in Context

Thursday, November 14, 2019 - 2:00pm
2200 Rayburn House Office Building


Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing to examine the human rights situation in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in India in historical and national context.

The Indian government’s decision to change the legal status of the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, announced in August and effective as of October 31, 2019, has attracted intense attention due to persistent reports of human rights violations, including a crackdown on freedom of expression; the arbitrary “preventive” detention of hundreds of politicians, lawyers, journalists, and other civil society figures and related fears of enforced disappearance; and the use of excessive force against protesters. The increased militarization of the security presence in the region and the economic and social consequences of the central government’s actions, including continuing restrictions on internet and phones, have also provoked widespread concern. In addition, militants have targeted migrant workers from outsider Kashmir, and have threatened businesses to maintain a protest shutdown.

But although India’s decision was sudden, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been of concern for years. Its territory is divided by a military “Line of Control,” with Pakistan holding about one-third and rejecting India’s claim over most of the remainder. China also claims some of the land. In 2018 the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented human rights violations in both India- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir and issued recommendations on a wide range of issues including civilian killings, deaths during security operations, blanket restrictions on journalists and independent observers, misuse of anti-terrorism legislation, and protection of religious minorities. A follow-up OHCHR report in July 2019 found little improvement and reiterated the “urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice for all people in Kashmir.” Nor are the human rights problems limited to the Kashmir region. Patterns of human rights violations have been documented at the national level in India and Pakistan, including by the U.S. Department of State in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Witnesses will examine the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the context of the region’s history and larger patterns of rights violations in India and Pakistan, and will offer recommendations for action by Congress.

The hearing will be open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. The hearing will be livestreamed via the Commission website and will also be available for viewing on Channel 55 of the House Digital Channel service. For any questions, please contact Kimberly Stanton at 202-225-3599 (for Co-Chair McGovern) or Piero Tozzi at 202-225-3765 (for Co-Chair Smith).   

Hosted by:

James P. McGovern
Member of Congress
Co-Chair, TLHRC
Christopher H. Smith
Member of Congress
Co-Chair, TLHRC


Opening Remarks

Panel I

  • Anurima Bhargava, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
    Written testimony

Panel II

  • Haley Duschinski, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Law, Justice and Culture, Ohio University
    Written testimony
  • Sehla Ashai, Human rights lawyer
    Written testimony
  • Yousra Fazili, Human rights lawyer and Kashmiri-American cousin of Mubeen Shah, detained Kashmiri businessman
    Written testimony
  • Arjun S. Sethi, Human rights lawyer and Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Law
    Written testimony
  • Sunanda Vashisht, Writer, political commentator, and Kashmiri Hindu who identifies as a victim of ethnic cleansing
    Written testimony
  • John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch
    Written testimony


Submitted for the Record




116th Congress