Dr Nitasha Kaul, Senior Lecturer on the International Relations MA, International Relations and Security MA and the Politics and International Relations BA courses, gave a witness statement at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington D.C. about human rights in South Asia.
The hearing was held on 22 October by the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific in Washington D.C. Dr Kaul testified along with five others in the hearing, all from diverse organisations, including The Times of India, the Centre for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, Amnesty International, the National Advisory Council for South Asian Affairs, as well as a Human Rights Activist. Along with her spoken testimony, Dr Kaul provided an in depth written submission to the panel.
The hearing was chaired by Congressman Brad Sherman, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, who expressed concern over the severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communications in Kashmir.
The hearing focused primarily on the issues being faced in Indian-administered Kashmir, where many political activists have been arrested, internet has been blocked, telephone communications restricted, and political assembly has been banned. The current crisis is a result of India diluting Article 370, thus removing the constitutional autonomy of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Dr Kaul in particular discussed human rights abuses and their impact on the people of Kashmir Valley, as well as those overseas unable to communicate with family or loved ones. Her research includes the politics of India as well as various aspects of the conflict in Kashmir, including human rights, gender, self-determination, representation, justice.
In her witness testimony, Dr Kaul said: “I do not represent here Indian interests or Pakistani interests and in fact that is precisely the problem - that the people who speak about Kashmiri self-interest and the rights of Kashmiris themselves are the ones who are most vulnerable from any and every side. The communal politics serves no one. It does not serve the Indians and Kashmir. If Kashmir were a communal issue then Muslims in India would feel the same as Kashmiri Muslims and they do not. So it is not a communal issue, it is an issue albeit that has been communalised.”
Dr Kaul said about her experience: “As a long term advocate of human rights in the public domain, and as someone who has worked on Kashmir and India for numerous years, it was an empowering moment for me and the people who look up to my voice. Further, being a senior academic at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, and as someone who teaches postgraduate modules on ‘The State, Politics, and Violence’ and ‘Postcolonial International Relations’, it was a rare opportunity to speak truth to power, put forward ideas that bring together the voices of peace and justice from different sides, and have an impact on the practice of critical international relations.
“Such moments, when the academic, public intellectual, policy thinking, and political domains intersect and create the space for a serious and important intervention, are truly precious. For the millions of people in Kashmir who have been affected for decades by this protracted political problem and its human rights dimensions, it was a time of hope that the international community can do things better.”