23 European Union legislators are currently in the middle of a two-day visit to Kashmir. They intend to examine the state’s law and order situation for themselves. This is the first time a foreign delegation is visiting the state after the Indian Government revoked Article 370, stripping it of its special status. The Opposition, in the meantime, has launched a scathing attack on the current administration — demanding to know why “outsiders” are being permitted into the state, while Indian politicians have so far not been allowed to visit.
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The delegation met the Lieutenant General and visited Dal Lake on Tuesday. However, according to sources, they arrived in Kashmir to “… a complete shutdown and clashes between people and security forces in several parts of the city and the Valley.
A convoy of security vehicles escorted the MPs, who were travelling in bullet-proof jeeps, from the airport to their hotel where a traditional Kashmiri welcome awaited them.”
At least four people were injured in this clash, and there were blockades all around the city. Roads were deserted and shops closed. Meanwhile, there were also reports of militants opening fire at CRPF personnel posted near a school in Pulwama. Board exams for Class 10 students are currently underway in the state, and many schools are thus being used as examination centres.
In the meantime, the United Nations has issued an unprecedented statement regarding Kashmir, urging the Narenda Modi Government to “fully restore the rights of the people.”
“The Supreme Court of India has been slow to deal with petitions concerning habeas corpus, freedom of movement and media restrictions,” PTI quoted Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as saying.
“We are extremely concerned that the population in Kashmir continues to be deprived of a wide range of human rights and we urge the Indian authorities to unlock the situation and fully restore the rights that are currently being denied. Although some of these measures have been relaxed, their impact on human rights continues to be widely felt,” Colville said.
So far, the J&K administration has restored mobile telephone services for post-paid connections in the Valley without SMS facility as the lockdown in Kashmir entered the 86th day on Tuesday.”
It is unknown whether the UN statement is even partly influenced by the observations made by the EU delegation.
UK MP Chris Davies, meanwhile, has publicly accused the Indian Government of withdrawing its invitation to him as he wanted to move about freely.
“ “I was happy to accept on the condition that during my time in Kashmir I would be free to go wherever I wish, and talk to whoever I wish, unaccompanied by military, police or security forces but accompanied by journalists,” Davies was quoted as saying by the newspaper. The MP said he is “not prepared to take part in a PR stunt” for the Narendra Modi government, or pretend that all is well in Jammu and Kashmir. “It is very clear that democratic principles are being subverted in Kashmir, and the world needs to start taking notice,” Davies added.”
So, what now?
It is to be noted that a few weeks ago a senator of the United States was denied permission to visit Kashmir. A joint delegation of Opposition MPs, including Rahul Gandhi, was also stopped from entering the state in August. Maybe by permitting the EU legislators to visit the state, the Government is taking its first step towards normalizing life in the Valley.
Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.