EU MPs visit Kashmir: Lawmakers briefed on Pakistan's role in 'fuelling terrorism'; Opposition launches scathing criticism against Centre

A delegation of 23 EU MPs arrived in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar on Tuesday for a “first-hand” assessment of the situation in the state, in the backdrop of a complete shutdown and clashes between people and security forces in several parts of the city and the Kashmir Valley.

FP Staff October 29, 2019 19:14:00 IST
EU MPs visit Kashmir: Lawmakers briefed on Pakistan's role in 'fuelling terrorism'; Opposition launches scathing criticism against Centre
  • The team, on a two-day visit, was reportedly briefed by senior security officials on the situation in the Valley and other parts of Jammu and Kashmir and also met delegations of the general public

  • However, there was a complete shutdown in Srinagar and at least four people were injured in numerous clashes between protesters and security forces in various parts of the Valley

  • Leaders of the Opposition parties launched scathing criticism against the Centre for allowing a delegation of foreign politicians to visit

A delegation of 23 EU MPs arrived in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar on Tuesday for a “first-hand” assessment of the situation in the state, in the backdrop of a complete shutdown and clashes between people and security forces in several parts of the city and the Kashmir Valley.

A convoy of security vehicles escorted the MPs, who were travelling in bullet-proof jeeps, from the airport to their hotel. The team, on a two-day visit, was briefed by senior security officials on the situation in the Valley and other parts of Jammu and Kashmir and also met delegations of the general public. The delegation was also briefed by officials of security forces like the Indian Army  about "Pakistan's role in fuelling terrorism in the Kashmir valley and the role of Pakistani Army in pushing terrorists into India," ANI reported.

There was a complete shutdown in Srinagar and at least four people were injured in numerous clashes between protesters and security forces in various parts of the Valley, officials were quoted as saying by PTI.

People put up blockades in at least five different places in Srinagar, including downtown Srinagar and 90 Feet Road.  Shops and business establishments were closed and vehicles were off the roads due to the clashes.Vendors, who had been setting up their stall over the past weeks, did not turn up on Tuesday, officials said. However, board examinations for Class 10 were held on schedule with worried parents waiting outside exam halls for their children.

These 23 EU MPs are part of the first group of high-level foreign visitors to Kashmir after the 5 August decision of the Centre to revoke Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 and bifurcate the state into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The team originally comprised 27 parliamentarians, many from extreme-right or right-wing parties, but four did not travel to Kashmir and have reportedly returned to their respective countries, officials said without divulging the reason.

On Monday, the members of the European Parliament met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi. While welcoming the MPs to India, he "expressed the hope that they have a fruitful visit to various parts of the country, including to Jammu and Kashmir".

"Their visit to Jammu and Kashmir should give the delegation a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, apart from giving them a clear view of the development and government priorities of the region," a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who hosted a lunch for the 27 visitors, also gave them an overview of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

A few weeks ago, a senator of the United States was denied permission to visit Kashmir.

A joint delegation of opposition MPs, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, undertaking a visit to Kashmir about two months ago, was not allowed to go beyond the Srinagar airport after their arrival from Delhi and were sent back to the national capital.

Local politicians, Opposition slam Centre over EU MPs’ visit

Leaders of the National Conference (NC), Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Congress and other parties launched scathing criticism against the Centre for allowing a delegation of foreign politicians to visit the restive region while Indian MPs were “required to go to court” to gain access to the soon-to-be Union Territory.

Terming the EU MPs’ visit a “curated sanitised picnic to Kashmir”, Iltija Mufti, former chief minister Mehbooba’s daughter tweeted from the PDP leader’s official Twitter account and noted the state of shutdown the Valley was in. She also questioned whether the government expected “nine million oppressed Kashmiris to lay out a red carpet for them”.

On Monday, Mufti tweeted saying, “If 28 European Parliament members are allowed to take stock of situation in Kashmir, wonder why the same courtesy can’t be extended to American senators. Won’t be surprised if GOI (is) indulging in normalcy acrobatics again and orchestrating ‘normalcy’ certificates.”

The National Conference party, led by former chief ministers Farooq and Omar Abdullah, also labelled the visit as a “PR exercise”. In a statement that the EU lawmakers' Kashmir is a "PR exercise", the party added that most of the members in the delegation share a "particular ideology".

The statement issued by a party spokesperson also referred to Mehbooba, Farooq, and Omar being kept in detention for the last three months. The statement further added that the visit was "ironic" as former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir have been "incarcerated" since the abrogation of Article 370.

Congress leaders, including former president Rahul Gandhi, also said that there was “something very wrong” with the Centre “banning” Indian MPs from visiting Kashmir.

CPI leader Binoy Viswam wrote to Modi on Tuesday, requesting that he be allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir since a foreign delegation was given a "red carpet'' entry into the region.

"It is everybody's question, why the government is disallowing any responsible Indian citizen, including Members of Parliament, to enter the territory of Kashmir. Now, the government has spread red carpet for the European Union MPs. With this background, I seek your permission to visit Kashmir and meet with the ordinary people," Viswam said in his letter.

AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi also lashed out at the Centre for allowing an "unofficial delegation" of European Union MPs comprising members "who hate Muslims and Islam" to visit Kashmir.

"The whole world knows about what is going on in Kashmir. EU MPs are coming in their private capacity and the prime minister meets them and says that the environment is conducive for investment. This is not an official delegation. Is this your policy?" Owaisi was quoted as saying by ANI on Tuesday.

"You make a visit to various countries all across the world and you cannot call an official delegation," the AIMIM leader added. "Who are they? Why should we show them Kashmir? They are not an official delegation, but they are people who hate Islam and Muslims and love Adolf Hitler. Many MPs among them are fascists. What is the message you are giving to Kashmiri people?" asked Owaisi.

The AIMIM leader said, "they are the ones who practice Islamophobia". Earlier on Tuesday, Owaisi had tweeted, "Fantastic Choice of MEPs who suffer from a disease — Islamophobia (Nazi lovers) are going to a Muslim-majority Valley, sure people will welcome them by 'Ware Paeth Khoshh Paeth'."

EU MPs say delegation visiting Kashmir ‘doesn’t represent’ entire institution

UK MEP Theresa Griffin on Tuesday tweeted that the group of "far-right" MEPs currently in Kashmir was not an "official" delegation and "didn't speak for the European Parliament".

Additionally, another UK MEP Chris Davies claimed that the Centre's invitation to him to be part of the visiting delegation was rescinded because he had asked to be able to meet locals without a police escort. The Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament (MEP) said that the decision showed that the Indian government was trying to hide the "reality of its actions" and blocking absolute freedom of the press.

"I am not prepared to take part in a PR stunt for the Modi government and pretend that all is well. It is very clear that democratic principles are being subverted in Kashmir, and the world needs to start taking notice," said Davies, whose invite for the visit between 27 and 30 October was reportedly rescinded.

With inputs from agencies

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