Congresswoman Ilhan Omar criticised Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh for defending India’s actions in Kashmir and found herself in the midst of a Twitter hate campaign.

US Representatives, Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (R) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) look on during an Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation Subcommittee hearing on
US Representatives, Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (R) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) look on during an Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation Subcommittee hearing on "Human Rights in South Asia: Views from the State Department and the Region" on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 22, 2019. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP)

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar received enormous hate from Indian Twitter users for challenging journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh's defence of India's aggressive actions in Kashmir. 

Singh testified at the US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Human Rights in South Asia on October 22 2019, describing India's lockdown in Kashmir as a necessary measure to avoid civilian casualties and to take the state on the path of prosperity.    

Singh also defended the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution by the Indian government which effectively ended Kashmir’s special status with India. India revoked Article 370 on August 5 2019, sparking much controversy and worldwide concern.

This article was the bedrock of Kashmir's accession to India in 1947. It also safeguarded the environment and demographic balance of the disputed region by forbidding citizens of other Indian states from buying land there.

While ending Kashmir's special status, the Indian government blocked communications in India-administered Kashmir, cutting off landlines and the internet, and imposed a curfew as well. The lockdown continued for over two months. In early October, about 50 percent of mobile communication was restored in the region but the internet ban is still in effect. 

Singh said Kashmiri Muslims were more terrorised by Pakistan-sponsored militants, overlooking India's bad human rights record in Kashmir, where cases of abuse, ranging from custodial killings to enforced disappearances and torture by Indian armed forces, can be found in almost every neighbourhood. 

US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar would have none of it. Omar accused Singh of using her platform as a journalist to whitewash India's crimes in Kashmir.

"Ms Singh, a reporter's job is to find the objective truth about what is happening and report it to the public. You have an enormous audience at The Times of India and you have an enormous responsibility to get it right. I am aware of how the narrative shaped by reporting can distort the truth. I am also very aware of how it could be limited to sharing only the official side of the story,” Omar said.

“The press is at its worst when it is a mouthpiece for a government. In your version of the story, the only problems in Kashmir are caused by what you call militants, the only people protesting to break away from India; and are all nefariously backed by Pak.”

Omar didn’t stop there: “You also make the incredible dubious claim that the Indian government's crackdown in Kashmir is good for human rights. If it was good for human rights, Ms Singh, it wouldn't be happening in secret. You make, what I might call, a feminist case for the occupation of Kashmir and communication shutdowns, saying it will be better for women."

Singh responded: “My record, my professional record is that I have lashed out at every single government in India on various issues, from human rights violations committed in Kashmir to the lynchings over beef.”

She continued: “I have a record of being non-partisan throughout in my profession of the last 20 years. So for Ms Omar to say... such accusations against me, is really condemnable.”

Omar’s support of Kashmiris affected by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decisions made her a target in social media. She was falsely accused of having “married her brother” for example.

The same user, Harbir Singh, who happens to be Aarti Tikoo Singh's husband, also claimed that Omar was a Somalian gang member before immigrating to the US, and would not delete his tweet despite others challenging its veracity. Only later did he thank Twitter users “for pointing out that this is not @IlhanMN.”

Criticisms aimed at Omar did not stop there. Twitter user Abhijit Iyer-Mitra alluded to Omar wearing a vest that detonates, suggesting that she is a suicide bomber. In a previous tweet, Iyer-Mitra had called Omar a “jihadi”.

Despite a campaign to smear Omar’s name for sympathising with Kashmiris suffering in India-administered Kashmir, there was still support for the congresswoman.

Source: TRT World