In a recent meeting organized by Pakistani-American Democrat Dr. Asif Mahmood, US Presidential candidate Cory Booker express his concerns over the conditions in Kashmir and urging the US to become the voice for the oppressed.
A US Senator, who heads India caucus on Capitol Hill, has joined a growing group of American lawmakers in urging New Delhi to remove the curbs it has imposed on India-held Kashmir
In a video released by the two democrats, Booker thanked Dr. Mahmood for bringing people together to talk about the urgency of human rights violations happening in Kashmir saying, “We are a nation that stands for values whether its freedom of expression, whether its freedom of speech and to be silent when challenges are going on whether they are in Kashmir, whether with Uighurs in China, we must speak up with a collective voice for human rights and for the well-being of all peoples. It’s a service to democracy when people are not silent and speak up for these values.”
This is not the first time Booker has raised his voice on the matter as he tweeted a Washington Post article on a deadly attack in Indian Controlled Kashmir earlier in February.
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) February 15, 2019
Booker, much like other democrats have built a campaign strategy centered around representing racial minorities in the US such as Indian-Amercans. After declaring his candidacy in February, Booker went on to induct at least 14 Asian-Americans in various positions including his National Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, who provided the list of names to Desi Talk. Seven of the 14, are possibly of Indian or part-Indian origin, or other South Asian origin, going by the names. Some suspect his hard-line stance on Kashmir may cost him popularity amongst this particular voter base.
On August 5, India’s Hindu nationalist government unilaterally wiped out the autonomy of the restive Kashmir region, sending in thousands of army troops to quell any possible unrest the move would bring in a disputed territory fought over by India and Pakistan.
Government authorities severed internet connections, mobile phone lines and even land lines, casting Kashmir into an information black hole that made it very difficult to discern what was unfolding.
In a similar move, India’s parliament has passed a Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries. Opponents of the bill say it is exclusionary and violates the secular principles enshrined in the constitution. They say faith cannot be made a condition of citizenship. Citizens here are also concerned about the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC), which requires people to produce documents of ancestry to be enlisted as Indian citizens. CAA and NRC have caused nationwide protests that saw violent clashes between the public and government authorities.
Indian security forces brutally assault those peacefully protesting the government's anti-Muslim #CitizenshipAmendmentAct in Uttar Pradesh.
More than 20 Muslims, including an 8-year-old girl, have been murdered by police in India's largest state since protests began last week. pic.twitter.com/gdLIZcXSAU
— CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) December 22, 2019
Other democrats have also protested against India’s annexation and human rights abuses in the region. Following the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on South Asian Human Rights where Kashmir was discussed in length, Congressman Brad Sherman wrote to Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, questioning the reliability of information coming from the region.
Congressman penned three question to Wells,
- Have U.S diplomats been permitted to visit Kashmir since August 5, 2019?
- How many times has the United States officially requested permission for U.S diplomats to visit Kashmir since August 5, 2019?
- What are the reasons the Indian government has given for refusing to grant U.S diplomats permission to visit Kashmir?
A US Senator, who heads India caucus on Capitol Hill, has joined a growing group of American lawmakers in urging New Delhi to remove the curbs it has imposed on India-held Kashmir.
In November, Dr. Asif Mahmood and other American citizens of Kashmiri origin briefed 148 congressional staffers on the situation in their homeland, reminding Congress that `now is the time to act`
“While I understand India has legitimate security concerns, I am disturbed by its restrictions on communications and movement within Jammu and Kashmir,” Senator Mark Warner tweeted on Tuesday. “I hope India will live up to its democratic principles by allowing freedom of press, information, and political participation”
The Senator from Virginia joins scores of senators and members of the House of Representatives who are calling for ending the Indian siege of Kashmir. Three of the senators urging India to lift its siege Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris are candidates for the Democratic nomination for president.
Pakistani-Americans fight for Kashmir
In November, Dr. Asif Mahmood and other American citizens of Kashmiri origin briefed 148 congressional staffers on the situation in their homeland, reminding Congress that `now is the time to act` if they want to stop India from changing the demographic balance in the held valley.
🇵🇰Pakistan-born Ahmadi Dr. Asif Mahmood testifies before🇺🇸U.S. Congress on the human rights situation in Kashmir. In 2017 Mahmood ran for lieutenant governor of California. pic.twitter.com/nu0DhckyZg
— Ehsan (@Ehzan) October 23, 2019
“This was first of its kind and prelude to a congressional hearing on Oct 22”, said Dr. Mahmood.
On December 16, 2019 Dr. Mahmood hosted an intimate lunch discussion with Senator Ed Markey on the human rights violations in Kashmir as part of his growing fight for the people of Kashmir.
Dr. Mahmood was born in a small village in Pakistan and came to the US 26-years-ago to study medicine in Kentucky, moving to California in 2000. The 56-year-old is a pulmonologist in Pasadena and if elected will be the first Muslim to hold a statewide office in the state of California.
Read more: US lawmakers grill India over Kashmir abuses
On his campaign website, Dr. Mahmood described himself as a “triple threat” being a Democrat, Muslim and immigrant.