Press India to lift internet restrictions in IOK: US state department urged » Kashmir Media Service

Washington, June 12 (KMS): The US senator, Edward John Markey, has urged the State Department to impress upon the Indian government to lift restrictions on the Internet in occupied Kashmir in view of the Coronavirus pandemic.

High-speed Internet service remains suspended in occupied Kashmir since August 05, last year, when Modi government revoked the specials status of the territory and placed it under strict military lockdown. The communal Modi regime didn’t restored the service even after the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, which had wrecked havoc in many parts of the world.

Edward John Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, in a letter addressed to State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, said although video conferencing is helping people around the world cope with isolation during lockdowns, a lack of access to this technology puts further strain on millions of Kashmiris, or nearly half of all adults, who have some form of mental illness after decades of conflict.

The letter was written on June 4, but released on Friday, hours after Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, released a US panel report that has raised concerns over religious freedom in India. Titled, “International Religious Freedom Report” for 2019, the US administration has given a detailed account of the protests and criticism against the Indian government’s decisions on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and Article 370. The report has been prepared by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission established in 1998 under the International Religious Freedom Act.

Senator Markey, who is also an environment activist, in his letter addressed to Thomas L Vajda, a senior bureau official, said restrictions on high-speed internet are preventing doctors from accessing COVID-19 treatment guidance, hindering access to telemedicine, and impacting the efficacy of social media awareness campaigns about the virus.

While urging the State Department to take up the issue of internet restriction with the Indian government, the senator stresses “that communications restrictions inflict harm not only on affected communities but also on India’s democracy and economy.”

Besides Kashmir, the senator also talks about the rise in anti-Muslim violence, human rights and press freedom concerns. He says the “failure to address” these issues seem to contradict the pluralistic and democratic principles of India.

“I urge the State Department to take steps to act on the recommendations related to India in the Annual Report of the USCIRF,” Senator Markey said. He also appealed to his government to follow the “the report’s recommendations to strengthen engagement with communities affected by discrimination and to designate India as a country of particular concern for engaging in and tolerating religious freedom violations”.

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