Ahead of US President Donald Trump’s India visit later this month, four top US senators have written to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, expressing concern about the internet curbs in Kashmir more than six months after Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was scrapped under Article 370, as well the preventive detentions of political leaders. In their letter, the senators also express concern over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA that triggered protests across the country.
Last week, the draconian Public Safety Act was invoked against two former Chief Ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, to extend their custody. The stringent law allows detention without trial for up to three months and multiple extensions.
The letter by the senators, two Democrats and two Republicans, says that the Indian government “continues to block most internet in the region… India has now imposed the longest ever internet shutdown by a democracy, disrupting access to medical care, business and education for 7 million people”.
“Hundreds of Kashmiris remain in ‘preventive detention’ including key political figures,” the letter to Mike Pompeo states. The senators said “these actions have severe consequences”.
Donald Trump and Melania Trump will arrive for a two-day India visit on February 24. They will begin their visit with a grand event in Ahmedabad in PM Modi’s home state Gujarat.
Among the four senators who wrote the letter is Lindsey Graham who is very close to Mr Trump.
“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,” the senators say.
The letter goes on to demand an assessment by the US government within 30 days of “the number of individuals detained by the Indian government for political purposes due to India’s revocation of Article 370”.
The senators also call for an assessment of the “restrictions on communications” in Jammu and Kashmir and the “level of access” given to independent observers, diplomats, foreign journalists.
The US senators also want an assessment of the “number of individuals at risk of statelessness, denial of nationality pursuant to an NRC (National Register of Citizens)”.
The letter from the Amercian senators comes at a time a second batch of foreign envoys – many of them from the European Union – are in Jammu and Kashmir as part of the government’s efforts to display the measures taken to restore normalcy in the newly created union territory.
The US has been closely watching the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the anti-CAA protests in the country. The Trump administration has expressed its concerns over both the issues in the past.