Senators raise human rights, religious freedom issues ahead of Trump’s India visit

Washington: Ahead of President Donald Trump’s maiden visit to India, four influential US senators, who described themselves as “longtime friends of India”, have sought an assessment of the human rights situation in Kashmir and religious freedom in the country, saying hundreds of Kashmiris remain in “preventive detention”.
The bipartisan group of senators, in their letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dated February 12, said that India has now imposed the longest-ever internet shutdown by a democracy, disrupting access to medical care, business and education for seven million people.
The Indian government abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, 2019 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and imposed severe curbs including on movement of people as well as on mobile telephone and internet connectivity. The crackdown drew international criticism with several countries expressing concerns over the situation in Kashmir. India has categorically told the international community that its move to scrap Article 370 was an internal matter. According to officials, internet is being restored in the Valley in a phased manner after reviewing the security situation. The US lawmakers, describing themselves as “longtime friends of India”, wrote in the letter that “more than six months after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government unilaterally revoked the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, the government continues to block most internet in the region”. “Hundreds of Kashmiris remain in ‘preventive detention’, including key political figures,” they said. Signatories to the letter are Chris Van Hollen, Todd Young, Richard J Durbin and Lindsey O Graham. “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.
This includes the passage of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act which is being challenged in India’s Supreme Court,” the senators wrote. In the letter, the Senators requested Pompeo for a State Department assessment of a number of issues in India including the number of individuals detained by the government for political purposes and their treatment; current restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir; current accessibility of Jammu and Kashmir; and restrictions on religious freedoms in Jammu and Kashmir.
The actions taken by the Indian government in Jammu and Kashmir, they said, have severe consequences. (PTI)

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