US senator prevented from visiting Kashmir

NEW YORK, Oct 05 (APP):U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, one of nearly 50 members of Congress who have voiced concern over the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir, has been refused permission to visit the disputed state as India’s lockdown enters its third month, according to The Washington Post.

Van Hollen, a Democrat who is in a trip to India, said he asked to go to the curfew-bound Kashmir so he could see the reality on the ground for himself.

“If the Indian government has nothing to hide, they should not worry about people visiting Kashmir and witnessing the situation with their own eyes,” Van Hollen said in an interview with the Post Friday in New Delhi.

Indian authorities have deployed thousands of additional troops, shut down Internet access and mobile phone service, arrested more than 3,000 people and detained nearly all of the region’s political leadership.

The crackdown coincided with India’s announcement on August 5 that it would strip occupied Kashmir of its autonomy and statehood. The Indian government says the detentions and restrictions on communication are necessary to prevent violent and potentially deadly protests in response to its announcement.

As democracies, India and the United States “talk a lot about our shared values,” the senator said. “I think this is a moment where transparency is important.”

Last month, Van Hollen proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill that referred explicitly to India’s clampdown on Kashmir. While encouraging “enhanced engagement with India on issues of mutual interest,” it also noted “with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir” and called on the Indian government to restore communications and release detainees.

The amendment was adopted unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the bill is likely to receive a full vote in the Senate in the next several weeks.

A spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the amendment, the Post said. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs did not respond to a query about Van Hollen’s inability to visit Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the region’s mainstream political leaders remain in detention. Some are being held under a stringent security act used to combat the region’s long-running anti-India insurgency.

Since August 5, several politicians from elsewhere in the country have been turned back by the authorities when they attempted to visit Kashmir.

Read More on Kashmir Lock down: Pakistan calls for UNSC to demand end to curfew, rights violations in Kashmir

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