WASHINGTON: “I’m concerned about recent events in [India-held] Kashmir,” says Senator Elizabeth Warren, another Democrat seeking to contest the 2020 US presidential election.

In a message she tweeted on Saturday, Senator Warren urged India to end the ongoing communications blackout of the occupied lands.

“The US-India partnership has always been rooted in our shared democratic values,” she wrote. “I’m concerned about recent events in Kashmir, including a continued communications blackout and other restrictions.”

Senator Warren also attached an article about the situation in occupied Kashmir to her tweet and reminded India that “the rights of the people of Kashmir must be respected”.

On Aug 5, India annexed occupied Kashmir by withdrawing a constitutional guarantee of its autonomy and stripped the residents of their basic rights. The strict lockdown and communications blackout have suffocated the region into silence. And a curfew imposed on Aug 5 has continued now for 63 days.

The Indian actions, particularly a blatant violation of basic human rights, have alarmed US lawmakers, rights activists, media and think tank experts across the United States.

Last month, another Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Bernie Sanders, said that the annexation was “unacceptable” and urged India to review its policies.

Last week, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted that the clampdown in occupied Kashmir amounted to a medical aid blackout and re-tweeted links supporting her claims.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party in Canada, also echoed similar sentiments in a recent statement.

Ms Cortez also attended a Kashmir camp at New York’s Jackson Heights neighbourhood where organisers also arranged ghaibana namaz-i- janaza (funeral prayers) for those killed in Kashmir.

“Our entire community’s prayers and support are with the families of Kashmir as we work to establish peace and justice there & throughout the world,” she wrote on a board set up at the protest site.

She later re-tweeted photos from the event and called for an end to the communication blockade in the region.

In Canada, Mr Singh said that the clampdown in occupied Kashmir indicated that India had something to hide.

“The Indian government shut down telephones, cellphone communication, and blocked media,” he said in a statement.

“Anywhere in the world, if the cellphones are being blocked, the telephones are being shut down, and the media is not allowed to go there, I can assure you, there are human rights violations going on.”

Mr Singh also “denounced what India was doing to the people of Kashmir”.

An AFP report that Senator Warren attached to her tweet underlined “two months of misery” in the Indian occupied Kashmir.

“Children as young as nine detained, protests and tear gas, allegations of torture, businesses shut and no mobiles or internet: it’s now been two months of misery in the Kashmir Valley,” the report pointed out.

The report also noted that on Aug 5 India “split the state in two, after sending in tens of thousands of troops to impose a lockdown and detaining the region’s top politicians”.

“Evidence on the ground suggests that local (Kashmiris) are livid about India’s latest move, with regular demonstrations, business owners refusing to open their premises and children kept out of schools,” the report added.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2019