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Indian govt not willing to listen to any dissent: Rep Jayapal on Jaishankar cancelling meet

The American newspaper reported that Indian officials told the committee that Jaishankar would not meet with them if the group included Rep Jayapal, who is sponsoring a resolution urging India to lift communications restrictions, restore Internet access, and preserve religious freedom.

SNS | New Delhi |

External affairs minister S Jaishankar who is in United States, abruptly canceled a meeting with senior members of Congress this week after US lawmakers refused demands to exclude congresswoman Pramila Jayapal who has criticized the Indian government’s policies in Kashmir, said congressional aides familiar with the matter.

The decision has been called India’s unwillingness to listen to criticism over the Kashmir issue as Prime Minister Narendra Modi defends moving in troops, imposing curfews and cutting off mobile phone and Internet access in India’s only majority-Muslim state.

In her tweet Rep Jayapal said, “The cancellation of this meeting was deeply disturbing.”

The Washington Post reports, during his visit to US this week, External Affairs Minister was to meet the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas, and others, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

The American newspaper reported that Indian officials told the committee that Jaishankar would not meet with the lawmakers if the group included  Jayapal, who is sponsoring a resolution urging India to lift communications restrictions, restore Internet access and preserve religious freedom. Engel refused, and the Indians pulled out, Jayapal told The Washington Post.

“This only furthers the idea that the Indian government isn’t willing to listen to any dissent at all,” she said. “The seriousness of this moment should’ve been a reason for a conversation, not dictating who’s in the meeting, which seems very petty.”

Defending his decision Jaishankar said, “I am aware of that (Congressional) resolution. I don’t think it’s a fair understanding of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, or a fair characterisation of what the government of India is doing. And I have no interest in meeting (Jayapal),” Jaishankar told a group of Indian reporters on Thursday.

Tensions in Kashmir, over which India and Pakistan have fought for decades, spiked after Modi government revoked a special status granting autonomy to the region.

The Internet shutdown entered its 134th day on Monday, making it the longest shutdown of its kind imposed in a democracy, according to the Internet advocacy group Access Now. Calling it a preventative measure PM Modi’s government has defended the restrictions on security grounds.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also criticised Jaishankar’s decision and said, “This intolerance of dissent is a BJP political failing.”

Jaishankar’s trip to Washington comes as protests have spread across the country over the Citizenship Amendment Act, a law passed last week that prevents undocumented Muslims from neighboring countries from seeking Indian citizenship.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with Jaishankar on Wednesday, declined to weigh in on the citizenship law. He has made the promotion of religious freedom a centerpiece of his tenure as the United States’ top diplomat.

“We care deeply and always will about protecting minorities, protecting religious rights everywhere,” Pompeo said at a news conference. A senior State Department official declined to say whether the citizenship law came up during discussions involving Mike Pompeo, S Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.

At the same news conference, Jaishankar defended the citizenship law as a “measure which is designed to address the needs of religious minorities from certain countries.”

Jayapal has criticised the Act saying the citizenship law “adds a whole level of complexity to India as a secular democracy – one of the great prides of the country.”

The Washington Post reports, She said she had planned to advance her resolution on Kashmir this week but was urged to wait until after meeting with Jaishankar. Now she plans to renew her push for the resolution in January.”My constituents care about the human rights situation, thousands of peopled detained without charges, and a communication crackdown that makes daily life more difficult,” she said. “It has been extremely brutal for families in Kashmir.”