Thursday Feb 13, 2020
Just days before President Donald Trump's visit to New Delhi, four US senators have called for an urgent assessment of the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by India and the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir.
Senators Lindsey Graham, Chris Van Hollen, Todd Young and Dick Durbin in a letter to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out the "troubling actions" of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and said, “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."
“These actions have severe consequences,” the letter stated.
Last year in December, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a bill which fast-tracks naturalization of non-Muslim refugees who came to India from neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before 2015.
While the bill covers Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians in the three countries, it excludes Muslims.
Earlier on August 5, the Indian government had revoked the special status of Kashmir, putting the region into lockdown and sending troops to the valley and putting the Muslim majority province under a communication lockdown.
The senators asked for an assessment on the number of individuals detained for political purposes due to India’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, including an assessment, to the extent practicable, of whether detainees endure torture or other forms of mistreatment.
They also called for a review of the Indian government’s restrictions on communications in Kashmir, including access to the internet and cellular telephone services.
They demanded the US secretary of state to assess, “The level of access to Kashmir the Indian government grants to independent observers, foreign diplomats and consular agents, foreign journalists, international organisations, and representatives of non-governmental organisations.”
The senators also called for an assessment of the “restrictions on religious freedom in Jammu and Kashmir and the number of individuals—including the number of religious, ethnic and other minorities—at risk of statelessness, arbitrary deprivation or denial of nationality, expulsion or arbitrary detention pursuant to the Government of India’s latest National Register of Citizens list, and any excessive use of force by Indian authorities against demonstrators opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act.”
The letter to Pompeo comes two weeks before President Donald Trump’s visit to India later this month.
The White House in its statement had said Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will make the trip to "strengthen the United States-India strategic partnership.
The two leaders have pursued a close relationship, with Modi visiting in September and hosting Trump at a huge rally in Houston, Texas, dubbed "Howdy, Modi!"