Fear of being exposed: Indian government bars US Senator from visiting Kashmir

Fear of being exposed: Indian government bars US Senator from visiting Kashmir

NEW DELHI — U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said he was refused permission to visit Kashmir on his trip to India this week as the Indian government’s clampdown in the restive region enters a third month.

Van Hollen is one of nearly 50 members link of Congress who have expressed concern link at the situation in Kashmir link. Indian authorities have deployed thousands of additional troops, shut down Internet access and mobile phone service, arrested more than 3,000 people link and detained nearly all of the region’s political leadership, Washington Post has reported.

The crackdown coincided with India’s announcement on Aug. 5 that it would strip Muslim-majority Kashmir of its autonomy and statehood link. The Indian government says the detentions and restrictions on communication are necessary to prevent violent and potentially deadly protests in response to its announcement. AD

Van Hollen, a Democrat who represents Maryland, said he asked to go to Kashmir so he could see the ground reality for himself.

“If the Indian government has nothing to hide, they should not worry about people visiting Kashmir and witnessing the situation with their own eyes,” Van Hollen said in an interview Friday in New Delhi.

As the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States “talk a lot about our shared values,” he said. “I think this is a moment where transparency is important.”

Last month, Van Hollen proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill link that referred explicitly to the restrictions implemented by India. While encouraging “enhanced engagement with India on issues of mutual interest,” it also noted “with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir” and called on the Indian government to restore communications and release detainees.