New Delhi: In view of safety and security, the Narendra Modi-led Indian government has denied permission to Chris Van Hollen, a senior US Senator from the Democratic Party, who wanted to visit Kashmir to see the situation ‘first-hand’.
Notably, Hollen wanted to visit Kashmir after the special status to Jammu and Kashmir was revoked on August 5. But despite being denied permission, the US senator, called on officials and key members of civil society in Delhi on Thursday and Friday. “I wanted to visit Kashmir to see first-hand what was happening, but was not allowed by the Indian government. We had approached the government about a week ago, but were told it was not the right time to go there”, the Indian Express quoted Hollen as saying.
The US senator, who was born in Karachi asserted that he has a deep affection for India but the ‘Indian government doesn’t want them to see what’s happening in the Valley. “If the Indian government has nothing to hide, they should not worry about people visiting Kashmir and witnessing the situation with their own eyes,” Hollen told the Washington Post.
He added,“I think this is a moment where transparency is important.” Meanwhile, there is no official statement from the government on this.
Last month, four US Senators including Hollen had urged President Donald Trump to press India to lift the communication blackout and release those who have been detained. The senators had also said that Pakistan should end support to terrorism and refrain from taking any steps that could destabilise Kashmir.
In a letter addressed to Trump, Senators Chris Van Hollen, Todd Young, Ben Cardin and Lindsay Graham said, “With each passing day, the situation for the people of Kashmir becomes increasingly difficult.”
“Therefore, we ask that you call upon Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi to fully restore telecommunications and internet services, lift the lockdown and curfew, and release Kashmiris detained pursuant to India’s revocation of Article 370,” stated the letter, a copy of which was released to the press.
Calling the restrictions humanitarian crisis, the Senators further wrote,”The United States has a vital role to play in facilitating a resolution to this humanitarian crisis, and we urge you to act swiftly. Once the urgent humanitarian situation has been addressed, we hope the United States can play a constructive role in helping resolve the underlying disputes between the two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan.”
They said the situation in Kashmir has grave implications for democracy, human rights and regional stability. “We believe that US engagement with India will be critical in providing relief for the all of the people of Kashmir,” the lawmakers said.
Restrictions were imposed when New Delhi had on August 5 scrapped the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated in into Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
On several occasions, India has defended imposition of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists. Besides, it has also asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its ‘internal matter’.