US senators write to Pompeo, seek assessment of HRs in Kashmir

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 2/15/2020 1:15:26 AM

NEW DELHI, Feb 14: Less than a fortnight before President Donald Trump’s visit to India, four influential US senators have expressed concern about the communications blackout in Kashmir and the NDA government’s actions that they said “threaten the rights of certain religious minorities”.
In a letter sent to secretary of state Mike Pompeo on February 12, the senators, including Lindsey Graham, a Republican perceived as close to Trump, sought an assessment of the human rights situation in Kashmir and of the rights of religious minorities in India.
The assessment, which the senators said should be done within 30 days by the US state department, should focus on the number of people detained “for political purposes” due to the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution and whether the detainees faced torture or other forms of mistreatment, the restrictions on communications in Kashmir, and the level of access to Kashmir granted to independent observers, diplomats, foreign journalists and international organisations.
They said the assessment should also look at restrictions on religious freedom in Kashmir, the number of people, including members of religious, ethnic and other minorities, at “risk of statelessness, arbitrary deprivation or denial of nationality, expulsion or arbitrary detention” due to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and “excessive use of force by Indian authorities” against demonstrators opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
Trump is set to visit India for the first time during February 24-25 for meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
There was no immediate reaction from Indian officials to the letter signed by Chris Van Hollen, Dick Durbin (both Democrats), Todd Young and Lindsey Graham (both Republicans).
“We write as longtime friends of India regarding some of the troubling actions taken by the current government. 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. 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. Hundreds of Kashmiris remain in ‘preventive detention’, including key political figures,” the letter said.
It added: “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.”



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