WASHINGTON, Dec 8: Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal ignored the voices of the diaspora from across the country as she went ahead with her pre-announced plans to introduce a resolution on Kashmir in the House of Representatives, agitated community leaders said.
The Chennai-born first-ever Indian-American women elected to the House of Representatives has been one of the few lawmakers, who are mostly from the Democratic party, raising their voices against the Indian government’s move on Jammu and Kashmir.
“Yesterday, I introduced a bipartisan House Resolution with @Rep_Watkins to urge the Indian government to end restrictions on communications and mass detentions in Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents,” she said in a series of tweets late Saturday.
Jayapal, 54, started her vocal criticism of situation in Jammu and Kashmir from September 2019, several weeks after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5.
The first major one being on September 10, when in a letter along with Democratic Congressman James McGovern from Massachusetts she urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to press the Indian government to lift communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir.
India has defended imposition of restrictions in Kashmir on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists following the abrogation of Article 370.
Ahead of the US visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she issued another statement along with 10 other congresspersons urging for lifting of communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir.
After she voiced her concerns saying it was based on the feedback from her constituents, the Indian mission approached her to provide specific names of individuals who couldn’t establish contacts with their relatives in Jammu and Kashmir so that contacts could be facilitated.
Eventually when names were not provided, her attention was drawn to the fact that her constituents were actually from Pakistan, masquerading as Kashmiris.
At the Congressional hearing on Human Rights in South Asia on October 22, Jayapal raised the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, questioning alleged illegal detentions and human rights abuse. It is during this hearing she announced that she will bring a resolution on Kashmir.
In fact, she circulated the resolution among her Congressional colleagues some three weeks ago, but struggled to find a co-sponsor. The House resolution introduced on Friday has one co-sponsor – Republican Congressman Steve Watkins.
Soon after her announcement on the proposed resolution, the Indian American community approached her against it. The community reached out to her in large numbers over phone calls to her office, wrote emails and met in person. In October, about 80 community members called on Jayapal’s office urging her to restrain from negatively viewing the situation in Kashmir.
On October 26, Indian-Americans held a ‘Silent March’ in front of her Seattle office to express solidarity with Kashmiri Hindus. Her office received thousands of emails and letters from Indian-Americans against her move to introduce the resolution on Kashmir. To express their resentment, the community voted en masse against a candidate supported by Jayapal in a local election in Seattle, ensuring the candidate’s defeat.
Meanwhile, Indian Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Deputy Chief of Mission Amit Kumar and Indian Consul General in San Francisco Sanjay Panda met Jayapal to explain India’s position on Kashmir. But her views on Kashmir remained unchanged irrespective of the information and facts brought to her.
Congressional observers feel that this is a political campaign by her to prove her credentials among the group of progressive lawmakers. She is understood to have told many people taking up an issue against her country of origin is designed to attract greater applause from the left liberal community, of which she is a major part.
Ravi Batra, a prominent Indian American attorney from New York, on Saturday accused Jayapal of being unprincipled, anti-Hindu, pro-terror and shamelessly pandering for political advantage.
“I reject with extreme prejudice – unprincipled self-promoting liberal lunatics who have never governed – folks like Pramila Jayapal and Ilhan Omar, who merely pander for political advantage shamelessly,” Batra said.
During the outreach of the Indian Embassy officials at the US capitol, many of the lawmakers and their staffers have pointed out that she is of Indian origin.
However, her views on Kashmir has turned the Indian-American community away. At the Diwali celebrations at the US Congress, a large number of influential Indian-Americans reached out to her urging her to drop the idea of bringing resolution in the House.
They pointed to her that Prime Minister Modi received standing ovation when he spoke on abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A on Kashmir during his address to the Indian community in Houston.
After introducing the resolution in the lower chambers of the US Congress, she tweeted, “I hope to work with the Indian government and my colleagues in Congress to strengthen the US-India partnership, while protecting the human rights of the Kashmiri people.”
Republican Congressman Watkins, who has co-sponsored her Congressional resolution, has been accused of voter fraud. (PTI)