NEW DELHI: The second US Congressional hearing on the human rights situation in J&K was a damp squib as only four of the 84 members attended it after the Republicans refused to attend the Tom Lantos human rights commission-called meeting, terming it biased, one-sided and not credible.
Among the Republicans, only co-chair Christopher H Smith attended and said Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.
He also called for Pakistan to act against terror groups operating from its territory.
Testifying before the panel, Indian-American columnist Sunanda Vashisht said Kashmir has always been an integral part of India.
“India is not just a 70-year-old nation that you see. India is a 5,000-year-old civilisation. There is no Kashmir without India. There is no India without Kashmir. It’s both ways,” she said.
Sheila Jackson Lee, a representative from Texas, urged for a pathway to ensure human rights are not violated in Kashmir.
“We should try to find a pathway to at least do the basics to ensure human rights in the region. Why not allow the members of the US Congress to visit both parts of Jammu and Kashmir,in India as well as Pakistan,” Lee said.
Commissioner of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom Arunima Bhargava alleged religious minorities in India are in a state of fear, persecution and violence.
“The restrictions in Kashmir impacted the ability of people to practice their faith, visit their places of worship and exercise their rights,” she said.