A group of European Union MPs, which is on a two-day visit to Kashmir, Tuesday interacted with several delegations and government officials in Srinagar to get first-hand assessment of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir following revocation of the state’s special status under Article 370.
The MPs, drawn mainly from far-right parties, are the first international visitors to Kashmir since the Parliament on August 5 scraped Article 370 and split it into two union territories.
After the arrivals, the group visited the Army 15-Corps headquarters in Srinagar, where they were briefed by the army commanders about the prevailing situation in Kashmir. But many alleged that no prominent civil society group, trade body or mainstream Kashmiri political party could meet the delegation.
Two MPs of regional National Conference claimed they were blocked from meeting the group. The visit ended with a trip to Dal Lake, Srinagar's most prominent tourist draw. The MPs were seen taking a boat ride.
The delegation will have a night stay in Srinagar and will return to New Delhi on Wednesday morning. The visit comes at a time when regional political party leaders, including three former chief ministers, remains in custody.
Hundreds of politicians were detained in measures that included a complete communication lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir and massive curbs on movement after the revocation of Article 370. Some of the restrictions have been softened since then.
The visiting parliamentarians didn’t meet any separatist leaders while leaders of regional political parties – National Conference (NC) and PDP – also didn’t meet the visiting delegation. Three former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who are under detention since August 5 also didn’t meet European Union MPs.
However, on Monday, they met two PDP and a Congress leader including former Lok Sabha member Muzaffar Baig in New Delhi. Besides him, PDP leader Altaf Bukhari and Congress leader Usmaan Majeed also met the delegation. Bukhari and Majeed are former Ministers.
AFP reported on Sunday that the European parliament and European Union hierarchy were not involved in this visit and the MPs are visiting India in their private capacity. Several European embassies in Delhi were unaware of the visit until Monday, the agency reported. It also quoted an unnamed EU official in India as saying the visit was not official and the lawmakers had come at the invitation of an NGO.