The Honorable Brad Sherman
5000 Van Nuys Blvd. #420
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
September 12, 2019
Dear Congressman Sherman,
We the undersigned are extremely disappointed that you are attending and encouraging other members of Congress to attend a rally for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sept. 22, in Houston.
Over the past years, you have rightfully supported immigrants, civil rights, and human rights, both here and abroad. We are taken aback by your participation and your urging of other members of Congress to attend a rally in support of Modi, given his government’s well-documented human rights abuses targeting minority Muslim, Sikh, Dalit and Christian communities, as well as its recent and illegal revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, stripping the state of Jammu & Kashmir of its protected status, and laying siege to its 8 million residents.
The legal maneuvering which led to the revocation of Article 370 has been widely panned by legal experts as unconstitutional and a complaint has already been filed in the Indian Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the revocation.
India’s military has maintained a continued communications and internet blackout of Kashmir, forcibly detained 4,000 elected Kashmiri political leaders, business leaders, civil society members and rights activists in secret jails, and levied a near-constant curfew on the region’s 8 million residents. There are widespread reports of torture of detainees. The Indian security forces have also arrested children, inflicted beatings on children, and kept their whereabouts secret from their parents. The 37-day siege has led to an urgent and grave humanitarian crisis where residents are facing a serious shortage of food and other life essentials.
The Kashmir valley has now run out of life-saving medications. The Wall Street Journal has characterized the situation as “India’s Kashmir Clampdown Turns Hospitals Into Graveyards.”
The Modi-led Indian government has shut down all local media and is not allowing any international journalist to enter the Kashmir valley. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the news from Kashmir valley is smuggled out on flash drives which is then published in international media.
Many of our stakeholders and community members are concerned about the human rights violations that are occurring in Kashmir, some of whom have parents in Kashmir. United States citizens in California have been cut off from their loved ones, unable to reach them or know whether they are safe.
The United Nations’ Human Rights Council has called the blackouts a “form of collective punishment” lacking “even a pretext of a precipitating offense.”
The Indian government’s mobilization of more than 40,000 to 50,000 additional military personnel to the existing 700,000 stationed troops in the region has made it the most militarized region of the world.
Of serious concern is that under Modi’s leadership, the Indian state of Assam has stripped 1.9 million Bengali speaking Muslims of their citizenship and is constructing prison camps to detain these now stateless people. The Indian government has now expelled all international journalists from the State of Assam. Prime Minister Modi’s plan to open similar detention centers across India is causing widespread fear and panic in the Indian Muslim community.
Relatedly, Modi’s government has tried to pass a new citizenship bill in the Indian Parliament that would create a pathway to citizenship for migrants from neighboring countries that are Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, or practice other religions — but leaves out Muslims.
Leaders of Modi’s political party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have been credibly accused of encouraging “communal violence,” and failing to forcefully condemn or put a stop to recent mobs of violent Hindu nationalists lynching, murdering and brutally beating minorities, especially Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and members of lower castes within India’s society.
Since Mr. Modi was re-elected on May 21, there has been a 400% increase in violence against Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and Dalits. Reports in the media indicate that victims of such communal violence are beaten and murdered while mobs shout or force their victims to repeat the phrase: “Jai Shri Ram,” which means “Praise Lord Ram,” one of the gods in the Hindu pantheon of gods.
Moreover, the 2019 University of California at Berkeley study titled “Islamophobia in India: Stoking Bigotry,” found that the 10 Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Telangana and Assam collectively accounted for 1,972 cases of politically-motivated violence, and implicated BJP leaders of stoking “communal violence” and hate.
Prior to becoming Prime Minister of India, in 2005 the U.S. Department of State banned Modi from entering the United States. Modi was denied a visa because as then-head of the state government in Gujarat, between February 2002 and May 2002, he comprehensively failed to stop Hindu nationalist riots that resulted in the senseless killing of more than 1,000 Muslims, including the reported gang-rape and murder of 250 women, and destruction of countless homes and businesses. Modi and his government’s silence during the rioting earning him the shameful title “Butcher of Gujrat.”
We, the undersigned, urge you to not attend this rally and discourage your colleagues in Congress from attending this event. Additionally, we request that you meet with representatives of our organizations, as well as of the members of the local Kashmiri American community, to address our concerns.
The American Sikh Public Affairs Association
The California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus
The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA)
Jewish Voice for Peace
Muslim American Society of Greater Los Angeles
Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative
The Islamic Center of Granada Hills
Islamic Circle of North America
Muslim Ummah of North America
North American Indian Muslim Association
Islamic Shura Council of Southern California
Stand With Kashmir