NEW DELHI: A US senator and a well-known Indian activist were barred from visiting occupied Kashmir, where at least 10 people were injured on 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 southern town of Anantnag.
He said the injured included a police official and a journalist, and that all of the injuries were minor.
Since removing several constitutional provisions that gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir limited autonomy in August, Indian authorities have flooded the occupied Valley with thousands of additional troops.
Mobile internet and phone services have been snapped, and landline phone access remains spotty, disrupting daily life and business in the Valley, home to about seven million people.
At least 10 people injured in grenade blast
More than 2,000 people, including mainstream political leaders, are in jails around India or under house arrest.
Ram Madhav, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claimed that leaders under house arrest would be released soon, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Senator Chris Van Hollen, part of a US congressional delegation visiting India on trade and other issues, told reporters in New Delhi that the Indian government had denied his request to travel to India-held Kashmir.
The Maryland Democrat said Washington was “closely monitoring the humanitarian situation” in the disputed Himalayan region. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on human rights in South Asia later this month, and the Kashmir issue is expected to figure prominently in the deliberations.
Sandeep Pandey, a well-known activist and education reformer, said he and other activists were barred from leaving the airport in Srinagar, where they had travelled on Friday for an informal fact-finding mission.
“We were held up and we don’t know why it was done,” Pandey said at a news conference on Saturday in New Delhi.
The district magistrate restricted him from travelling beyond the arrivals lounge, citing a law that limits public gatherings, according to a copy of the order.
The 54-year-old intended “to organise protests” against the constitutional changes in Kashmir, according to the order, a charge Pandey denied.
No foreign journalists have received permission from the Indian government to report in held Kashmir since Aug 5, although Indian citizens who work for foreign news organisations, including The Associated Press, have been able to report from the region.
A full-blown armed rebellion has raged in held Kashmir since 1989, seeking a united Kashmir either under Pakistani rule or as an independent state. About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and an Indian military crackdown.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2019
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