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Indian Activists, U.S. Senator Barred From Kashmiri Visit As Violence Continues

Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen says he was barred by the Indian government from visiting Kashmir.
Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen says he was barred by the Indian government from visiting Kashmir.

Indian activists and a U.S. senator were blocked from visiting the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir, as tensions remain high in the disputed Himalayan region that has entered the third month of a crisis caused by a near-total lockdown.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (Democrat-Maryland), who is part of a congressional delegation visiting India, and Sandeep Pandey, an education reformer, both said on October 5 that they were denied permission by New Delhi to travel to Kashmir.

Hollen told reporters in New Delhi he had sought to travel to Kashmir to observe conditions there, adding that the United States was "closely monitoring the humanitarian situation" in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both.

U.S. officials have criticized India’s move to lock down the region and have called on New Delhi to ease restrictions imposed on residents.

Separately, Pandey said he and other activists were barred from leaving the airport in Srinagar, the region's main city, where they had traveled on October 4 for a fact-finding mission.

Pandey told a news conference in the Indian capital on October 5 that "we were held up and we don't know why it was done."

Grenade Blast

Meanwhile, authorities said a grenade blast injured at least 10 people in the Kashmiri city of Anantnag.

Dilbagh Singh, the director-general of the police, said the explosion was set off during a militant attack and occurred near the office of a civil administrator.

Among those hurt, he said, were a police official and a journalist, both with minor injuries.

Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-led India have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, two of which were over control of Kashmir.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of supporting extremists in the region, charges Islamabad denies.

Pakistan and India often exchange fire in the Himalayan region, but tensions have increased since August 5, when New Delhi canceled the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir, cut off Internet and phone services, and strictly limited the movements of the public.

India has also deployed thousands of additional troops to the region, raising concerns of further armed conflict.

The action sparked resentment in Indian-administered Kashmir and across the border in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, as well as in Islamabad.

The move also faces some opposition in India, where opposition leaders have accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of looking to boost political support for his Hindu nationalist-led government.

Some 50,000 people have been killed in the part of Kashmir that India controls in the past three decades, and critics say New Delhi's latest actions will further isolate the region and encourage armed resistance.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal and AP
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