In comes 2019:
I have registered the Kashmir Action Network (KAN) on Capitol Hill to be able to officially advocate issues associated with Kashmir with the US Congress and Senate. Last year when I submitted a letter regarding Aasif Sultan and journalists in Kashmir to the Senate and Congress Foreign Relations Committees, I was told by staffers that it would be easier for them to highlight it if presented under an official banner. Registration on the Hill is free and one has to only file a financial statement once a year. Since there is no funding and it is strictly for volunteers, there will be no issue with that. But it will be a public record for anybody to inspect if questions arise.
The Kashmir Action Network will be similar to the Yemeni Alliance Committee and involve mostly online and other grassroots lobbying tools by Kashmiris and/ or friends of Kashmiris who are voters in the US. I will therefore spend much time initially collecting data regarding their location and to match them with their respective Representatives in Congress/ Senate. Whenever issues arise, I will draft sample/ boilerplate letters for members (with inputs) and issue instructions how to submit them and make phone calls if required.
I will update here and through an online news portal about everything that gets submitted and the status. I will also share it on other social media. This is because there is no money for a professional website (unless somebody volunteers to create one!) And I will say it again: no funding from anywhere so no labels please!!! The objective will be to raise awareness about rampant HR violations, shrinking democratic space/ freedom of speech, and that status quo is not an option. The group will NOT advance a particular solution because that is kiss of death in Washington, and the objective is to make the case that there must be one. It will be selective in its membership. So please do not ask “what about Kashmiri Pandits?” They are already represented on the Hill and beyond and generally do not share our politics.
I will keep you posted. Meanwhile if you have friends who are voters in the US and would like to be part of the network, please let me know. MOST IMPORTANTLY: there will be no leaders, no annual meetings, no specific past or present group affiliation. Only the grassroots with inputs by people from both IOK and Azad Kashmir. More later….