Ahead of United States President Donald Trump’s visit to India later this month, four American senators on Wednesday sought an assessment of the human rights situation in Kashmir, and expressed concern about detentions of political leaders in the region, PTI reported on Thursday.
In a letter written to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, two Democrats and two Republicans raised the matter of the internet curbs in Jammu and Kashmir, which have continued for more than six months after the Centre abrogated the special status of the former state under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
The signatories to the letter are Democrats Chris Van Hollen, Richard J Durbin and Republicans Todd Young and Lindsey O Graham. “India has now imposed the longest-ever internet shut down by a democracy, disrupting access to medical care, business, and education for seven million people,” the letter said. “Hundreds of Kashmiris remain in ‘preventive detention,’ including key political figures.”
Last week, prominent Kashmiri politicians, including former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were charged under the Public Safety Act. The Act allows the detention of a person without trial for up to two years.
The actions taken by the Indian government in Jammu and Kashmir, the senators said, have “severe consequences”.
Describing themselves as “longtime friends of India”, the senators also expressed concern over the Citizenship Amendment Act that has triggered nationwide protests since December. “In addition, the Indian government has taken other troubling steps that threaten the rights of certain religious minorities and the secular character of the state,” the senators added. “This includes the passage of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act which is being challenged in India’s Supreme Court.”
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will travel to New Delhi and Ahmedabad on February 24 and February 25.
The senators asked Pompeo for an assessment on the number of individuals detained by the government for political purposes and their treatment, restrictions on communications in Kashmir, restrictions on access for foreign diplomats, journalists and observers in Kashmir, along with the curbs on religious freedom in the region.
They also called for an assessment of the number of individuals who could be rendered stateless, deported or locked up as a result of the citizenship law.
Trump has offered a number of times to mediate in the Kashmir dispute several times but has been turned down by India each time. New Delhi has also categorically told the international community that its move to scrap special status for Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 is an internal matter.