Congress slams Centre for allowing EU lawmakers to visit Jammu and Kashmir but preventing MPs from travelling to state

The Congress questioned the government on Monday for allowing European Parliament members to visit Jammu and Kashmir but preventing Indian leaders from doing so.

Press Trust of India October 28, 2019 21:21:14 IST
Congress slams Centre for allowing EU lawmakers to visit Jammu and Kashmir but preventing MPs from travelling to state
  • The Congress questioned the government on Monday for allowing European Parliament members to visit Jammu and Kashmir but preventing Indian leaders from doing so

  • Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the party would raise the issue in Parliament as, he added, the government decision violates the collective privileges of Indian MPs

  • Inviting EU lawmakers to Jammu and Kashmir is the "ultimate disrespect" to Indian Parliament's sovereignty, Sharma added

New Delhi: The Congress questioned the government on Monday for allowing European Parliament members to visit Jammu and Kashmir but preventing Indian leaders from doing so, claiming it was an insult to India's democracy and "ultimate disrespect" to its sovereignty.

Congress slams Centre for allowing EU lawmakers to visit Jammu and Kashmir but preventing MPs from travelling to state

Congress leader Anand Sharma addressing a press conference. ANI

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the party would raise the issue in Parliament as, he added, the government decision violates the collective privileges of Indian MPs. Inviting EU lawmakers to Jammu and Kashmir is the "ultimate disrespect" to Indian Parliament's sovereignty, Sharma added.

A group of 27 EU lawmakers will travel to Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, in the first visit by a foreign delegation to Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August. They seek to talk to locals in Jammu and Kashmir and ask them about their experience.

The government has said the diplomatic outreach will allow EU leaders to "see things for themselves" in Kashmir and help it counter Pakistan's narrative.

But Congress leader Jairam Ramesh asked why the "chest-beating champion of nationalism", an apparent dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has allowed European leaders to visit Jammu and Kashmir.

"When Indian political leaders have been prevented from meeting the people of Jammu and Kashmir, what possessed the great chest-beating champion of nationalism to allow European politicians to visit Jammu and Kashmir. This is an outright insult to India's own Parliament and our democracy," he tweeted.

Sharma said this government has maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is India's internal affair "but it has contradicted itself in its eagerness to grab headlines and embarrassed India". This stand of the government is self-defeating and contradicts its consistent position that JK is India's internal matter. Is this the new version of Indian nationalism," he asked.

The deputy leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha said even the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, of which he is the chairman, is yet to be briefed by the government on the JK situation.

"But it has chosen to roll out a red carpet to the EU MPs. This matter will be raised in Parliament and the government will be held to account," he said. Sharma said when a delegation of Indian MPs and politicians went to Srinagar, they were detained and so was the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad.

"We were not allowed to meet any resident, community organisation representatives or ordinary citizens, but were detained at the airport," he said.

"My request, made during the Lok Sabha debate on Article 370, for an All-Party delegation of MPs to visit to see the situation for themselves, has still not been accepted. But members of the European Parliament can travel as our Government's guests? What an Insult to Indian Democracy," Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted.

Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill also questioned the government's move. "If EU delegation visit to Kashmir can be facilitated by #BJP Govt then why can't Indian Leaders belonging to Opposition Parties visit #Kashmir ? Indians have to knock door of Supreme Court to visit Kashmir; EU delegation is welcomed by PMO, Why no level playing field?" he asked on Twitter.

Prime Minister Modi met the EU leaders on Monday and told them that urgent action was needed against those supporting and sponsoring terrorism. He also said that there should be zero tolerance for terrorism.

Expressing hope that the parliamentarians' visit to various parts of the country will be fruitful, Modi said the visit to Jammu and Kashmir should give them a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, a statement issued by the prime minister's Office said.

The prime minister also hoped that it will give them a clear view of the development and governance priorities for the region, it said.

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