A 28-member European Parliamentary delegation has landed in Srinagar on Tuesday to 'see the ground situation' in Kashmir. From the airport, the delegation members drove to The Lalit Hotel. According to sources, the delegation will be given a presentation by the Jammu and Kashmir administration. The police will also brief the delegation about the security situation in the Valley. The Union lawmakers will meet the residents, traders, state government officials and the houseboat owners.
This is first such visit to the Valley that comes amid concerns voiced in the US and some other countries over the situation in the state after the revocation Article 370 and its special status. The delegation, which the European Union branch in New Delhi said is "not an official delegation", also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval.
Shops are closed, public transport is off the roads, private transport has also thinned down in Kashmir on Tuesday. Srinagar's open market is also shut on Tuesday. There are protests and clashes reported from some areas of Srinagar. Meanwhile, students are turning up at exam centers for the matriculation exams starting from Tuesday in Kashmir
Political leaders react:
The opposition has cornered the Modi government accusing it of concealing the reality of Kashmir which has been under a severe clampdown for more than 80 days. Several leaders like Mehbooba Mufti, Subramanyam Swami, Shashi Tharoor, Asaduddin Owaisi and many others have commented on the government's move in J&K. Former Chief Minister of J&K, Mehbooba Mufti's daughter Iltija is, currently handling the Twitter account as the former CM has been detained since August 5th, also commented on the issue.
Opposition leader Priyanka Gandhi also tweeted stating, "European MPs in Kashmir allowed to visit and intervene, but Indian MPs and leaders were sent back from the airport as soon as they arrived! This is a very unique nationalism." While Subramanyam Swami called it immoral, on the other hand, Asaduddin Owaisi called the visiting MEP's Islamophobic.
Agenda of the EU panel visit:
The visit of the EU delegation is an attempt by India to counter the negative picture of Kashmir sought to be portrayed by Pakistan. The Indian government has been slowly easing the clampdown in Kashmir, including restoring most of the mobile services, while all essential services are being provided to the people.
India has explained that the move on Kashmir is aimed to bring the region the benefits of the development processes that the rest of India gets, including for women and children and Dalits, who were being deprived of earlier due to its special status. Pakistan has lost no chance to raise the Kashmir issue at every international forum and has been carrying on a sustained misinformation campaign against India.
This is the first foreign delegation to visit Kashmir since its special status granted under Article 370 was abolished on August 5, which led to a huge outcry in neighbouring Pakistan and persistent efforts by Islamabad to internationalise the issue. Doval, who hosted the delegation for lunch, briefed the members on cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and the constitutional changes made in the status of Kashmir following the revocation of Article 370.