Opposition slams European lawmakers' Kashmir visit

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh. PTI Photo

Congress and other opposition parties on Monday slammed the decision of the Modi government to allow a group of European Parliamentarians to visit Kashmir, terming the move as an “insult to Indian democracy”.

“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,” senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said.

Several Congress leaders pointed out that Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad and scores of opposition leaders were stopped from visiting Kashmir after the Centre stripped J&K of its special status on August 5 and questioned the red carpet rolled out for European lawmakers.

“This stand of the government is self-defeating and contradicts or consistent position that J&K is India’s internal matter. Is this the new version of Indian nationalism,” Anand Sharma, the Deputy Leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha, told reporters here.

The Modi government also faced some criticism from its own leader Subramanian Swamy, who expressed surprise over the visit of foreign Parliamentarians to J&K in their private capacity and not as part of an official European Union delegation.

“This is a perversion of our national policy. I urge the Government to cancel this visit because it is immoral,” Swamy, a Rajya Sabha member, said.

“My request, made during the LokSabha 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,” senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said.

Azad and CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had to seek Supreme Court permission to visit J&K last month.

“I was allowed to enter Srinagar only when the Supreme Court permitted over my habeas corpus petition. Even today Indian MPs are not allowed while Modi welcomes MEPs,” Yechury said.

Former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti accused the Modi government of committing “incessant foreign policy gaffes” in its “desperation” to convince the international community that normalcy has been restored in Kashmir.

“From endorsing a Republican as US President to engaging with what seem like pro-fascist, right-leaning and anti-immigrant EU MPs. Royal mess,” Mufti said.

Mufti also wondered why similar “courtesy” cannot be extended to American senators. The former chief minister, who has been under house arrest since August 5, accused the government of indulging in “normalcy acrobatics” and “orchestrating normalcy certificates”.

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