New Delhi: Ahead of President Donald Trump’s first visit to India, four American senators have written a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing concern about the internet blockade in Kashmir and the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Trump along with wife Melania are scheduled to visit India on 23 and 24 February.
In their letter to Pompeo Wednesday, the four senators from Republican and Democratic parties — Chris Van Hollen, Todd Young, Richard J. Durbin and Lindsey O. Graham — said they were writing as “longtime friends of India” on the “troubling actions” taken by the Narendra Modi government.
Talking about the communication clampdown in Kashmir, the four senators said it was the “longest ever internet shutdown by a democracy”, one that disrupted access to education, medical care and business to seven million people.
The letter also talks about preventive detention of “hundreds of Kashmiris”, including “key political figures”. The senators said the government’s actions are likely to have severe consequences.
They also asked for an assessment, within 30 days, of the number of people detained after the scrapping of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir and whether these detainees have endured “torture and other forms of mistreatment”.
The central government had recently booked former J&K chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under the stringent Public Safety Act, hours before their preventive detentions were to end.
The letter further asks for an assessment of the level of access granted to independent observers, foreign diplomats and journalists in J&K, and the number of individuals who were at risk of “expulsion or arbitrary detention” under the National Register of Citizens.
Speaking about the CAA, the leaders said the new legislation threatens the rights of certain religious minorities and India’s secular character. They, therefore, want a check on whether India was using excessive force against anti-CAA protesters.
Who are these four Senators
Chris Van Hollen and Richard Durbin are Democrats while Graham and Young are members of the Republican Party.
Hollen and Durbin are senators of Maryland and Illinois respectively, Graham and Young are senators of South Carolina and Indiana.
Graham is known to be a close aide of President Trump and has in the past said: “…he (Trump) has exceeded every expectation I have and I unashamedly want him to be successful.”
In an interview with the Fox News, Graham had also credited Trump for rebuilding the US military and destroying the Islamic State.
“I like what he is doing. He’s rebuilding the military. He cut our taxes. He destroyed the caliphate. He got out of Iran nuclear deal. He’s rocket man at the table. He is deregulating the country, he put Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the bench,” he had said.
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