US senator barred from Kashmir as lockdown enters third month

NEW DELHI (AP) — A United States (US) senator and a well-known Indian activist were barred from visiting Indian-administered Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan territory where at least 10 people were injured last Saturday in a grenade blast as a government security and communications lockdown entered a third month.

Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh said the blast was caused by a militant attack and occurred near the office of a civil administrator in Anantnag.  He said a police official and a journalist were among those hurt and suffered minor injuries.

“It was a militant attack,” he said, without elaborating. “Police are probing to identify and nab the culprit.”

Since removing several constitutional provisions in August that gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir semi-autonomy, Indian authorities have flooded the Kashmir Valley, the heart of a decades-old armed insurgency, with thousands of additional troops.

Mobile Internet and phone services have been cut and landline phone access remains spotty, disrupting daily life and business in the valley, home to about seven million people.

Kashmiris shout slogans during a protest against the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, on the outskirts of Srinagar. PHOTO: AP

More than 2,000 people, including mainstream political leaders, are locked up or under house arrest.

Senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party Ram Madhav the ruling Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said leaders under house arrest in Kashmir would be released soon, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

“Prevention detention in five-star hotels with good facilities with TVs and books and all those things is a temporary measure to ensure law and order in the state,” PTI quoted Mahdav as saying.

Senator Chris Van Hollen, part of a US congressional delegation visiting India on trade and other issues, told reporters last Friday in New Delhi that the Indian government had denied his request to travel to Kashmir.

The Maryland Democrat said Washington was “closely monitoring the humanitarian situation” in Kashmir.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on human rights in South Asia later this month, and Kashmir is expected to be a focus.