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US senators request assessment on Kashmir issue

Bipartisan group of senators say India's steps threaten rights of certain religious minorities, secular character of state

Servet Günerigök   | 13.02.2020
US senators request assessment on Kashmir issue

WASHINGTON 

Four U.S. senators asked the State Department on Wednesday to provide assessments on India's crackdown in Kashmir, weeks before President Donald Trump's visit to New Delhi.

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sens. Chris Van Hollen, Todd Young, Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham expressed concern that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has blocked the internet in the Jammu and Kashmir region for months.

"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," said the bipartisan group of senators in the letter.

The government's steps, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, "threaten the rights of certain religious minorities and the secular character of the state," they wrote.

The senators requested information in 30 days about the number of political detainees in Kashmir, restrictions on the internet and cell phone service, access for foreign diplomats, journalists and observers and on religious freedom.

They also seek to know the number of people who are at risk of being stateless, deported or locked up as a result of the citizenship law and whether Indian authorities are employing "excessive use of force" against protestors.

The letter came nearly two weeks before the White House announced that Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will travel to India on Feb. 24 and 25, marking his first presidential visit to South Asia’s largest country.

- Kashmir issue

Jammu and Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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