US Senator from the Democratic Party who wanted to visit Kashmir to see the situation ‘first-hand’ has been denied permission by the authorities. Chris Van Hollen is the first US Congressman to have been denied the permission. Hollen was part of a congressional delegation that discussed India-U.S. bilateral relations, trade ties and defence purchases with authorities in India.
Tensions are high in Kashmir ever since Narendra Modi-government decided to scrap provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to the state. The Parliament of India has also approved the bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories.
“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.
“I had thought it would be useful to go there and see the situation myself. My personal view is that if you have nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear by allowing visitors to the state. I can only conclude that the Indian government doesn’t want us to see what’s happening out there,” he added.
According to The Hindu report, Chris Van Hollen has now added an appeal to end what it calls a “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir in its report ahead of the annual Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020. The report has asked the Government of India to: fully restore telecommunications and Internet services; lift its lockdown and curfew; and release individuals detained pursuant to the Government's revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution.”
Normal life remained affected in Kashmir for the 61st consecutive day on Friday as main markets were shut and public transport was off the roads, officials said. Few shops in some areas of the city here were open from 7:30 to 11:00 am, but downed their shutters afterwards, the officials said.
However, there were no restrictions anywhere in the valley, but security forces were deployed in strength in vulnerable areas to maintain law and order, they said.
They said auto-rickshaws and few inter-district cabs were seen plying here, but the other modes of public transport were off the roads.
The movement of private cars was lesser on Friday as compared to Thursday when the city had witnessed traffic jams at various places, they added.
Mobile services remained suspended in Kashmir except in Handwara and Kupwara areas in the north, while internet services -- across all platforms continued to be snapped in the valley since the night of August 4, officials said.