Known for his views on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, a key US Senator from the Democratic Party wanted to visit Kashmir to see the situation “first-hand”, but the Indian government denied him permission to go there.
Chris Van Hollen is the first US Congressman to have been denied the permission by the Indian government after the special status to Jammu and Kashmir was revoked on August 5.
Born in Karachi and having gone to school in Kodaikanal while his father served as an American diplomat in Sri Lanka, Van Hollen has been clued into the Indian politics. Despite being refused permission to visit Kashmir, he came to India and met officials and key members of civil society in Delhi on Thursday and Friday.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Friday, Van Hollen said, “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.”
Van Hollen, who has travelled across India but never been to J&K, said, “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.”
While there was no official response from the Indian government on this, government sources said that foreign dignitaries have been advised not to go there keeping in view their safety and security.
“I have a deep affection for India and support stronger Indo-US relations. And, it’s important for the Indian government to address the provisions in the US Senate’s Appropriations committee-adopted Bill which includes language on Kashmir,” said Hollen.
Van Hollen has served as Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 2017 to 2019. As member of the US House of Representatives for Maryland’s 8th Congressional district, he has been vocal about the situation in J&K. His constituency, Maryland, has one of the largest Muslim American populations of any US state, with a significant Pakistani and Indian-American Muslim population.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, he played a key role in including tough language on J&K in the Appropriations Bill, which was unanimously adopted last week. He said the committee “noted with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir and called on the Indian government to fully restore telecommunications and Internet services; lift its lockdown and curfew; and release individuals detained…”.