New Delhi: A group of European Union lawmakers left for Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, a day after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and NSA Ajit Doval, even as the Opposition accused the government of trying to conceal the “real” situation in the state that has been under lockdown for over 80 days.
The MPs are the first international visitors to Jammu and Kashmir since the government scrapped the state’s special status under Article 370 on August 5 and split it into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh. The government had earlier clarified that the MPs were visiting in their personal capacity.
According to sources, the MPs will visit the Army headquarters and meet residents and owners of boats in Dal Lake. Addressing the delegation on Monday, Modi said there should be zero tolerance for terrorism. A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said the PM also hoped that the visit will give the delegation a clear view of the development and governance priorities of the region,
The move, however, has been criticised by opposition parties, which accused the government of trying to conceal ‘real’ situation in J&K.
The PDP “officially distances itself from any (of its) members who attended (National Security Advisor) Doval’s lunch on Monday”, party spokesman and former legislator Firdous Tak said. Party leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig was one of the attendees apart from two others from the state.
Tak said “a member’s interaction with the establishment must not be construed as the party’s endorsement for the same”. Besides Baig, former PDP leader Altaf Bukhari, some newly-elected J-K block development council members and co-owner of Real Kashmir Football Club Sandeep Chattoo attended the lunch in Delhi.
Several leaders and activists from the state, including PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, are under detention after the abrogation of the state’s special status on August 5.
However, Tak said, “We hope that those who met the delegation must have projected the right situation. The PDP has every reason to believe that normalcy theatrics by BJP government was the result of tremendous international and national pressure following its misadventures in J&K.”
The Congress too had slammed the development, questioning how the government had allowed a European Union delegation to visit Jammu and Kashmir while preventing Indian leaders from going to the state, and claimed that it was an insult to India’s Parliament and democracy.
Senior party leader Jairam Ramesh asked as to why the “chest-beating champion of nationalism”, in an apparent swipe 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 J&K, what possessed the great chest-beating champion of nationalism to allow European politicians to visit J&K. This is an outright insult to India’s own Parliament and our democracy,” he 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.
Internet services — across all platforms — continued to be snapped across the valley since the night of 4 August — hours before the Centre announced its decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcate the state into two Union territories. Landline and postpaid mobile phone services, however, have been restored.
The efforts of the state government to open schools have not borne any fruit as parents have continued to keep children at home due to apprehensions about their safety. However, authorities are making preparations for holding all board examinations as per schedule.
Most of the top-level and second-rung separatist politicians have been taken into preventive custody, while mainstream leaders, including two former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — have either been detained or placed under house arrest.
Another former chief minister and the Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar, Farooq Abdullah, has been arrested under the controversial Public Safety Act, a law enacted by his father and National Conference (NC) founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1978 when he was the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
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