NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: just days ahead of Jammu and Kashmir being reduced to a Union Territory and its bifurcation, the government will take a group of 28 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Srinagar for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation on Tuesday.
The announcement of the visit came soon after the group met PM Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who will accompany the delegation to J&K.
Details of the visit were not immediately known, but sources said the group would meet fruit growers, shikara owners and some politicians.
While Modi said the visit would give the MEPs “a clear view of governance priorities of the region”, sources said Pak-sponsored terrorism was an important agenda when the delegation met the PM and Doval.
Opposition parties reacted with anger at the government’s decision to facilitate the visit as it had earlier denied permission to its own members of Parliament to tour Kashmir. Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury and D Raja of the CPI, among others, were sent back upon landing at the Srinagar airport.
The government also did not allow the visit of US Senator from the Democratic Party, Chris Van Hollen.
“Hope they get a chance to speak to the people, local media, doctors and civil society members. The iron curtain between Kashmir & the world needs to be lifted and GOI must be held accountable for pushing J&K into turmoil,” Iltija Javed tweeted on behalf of her mother and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The EU delegation’s visit comes on the heels of a US Congressional meeting in Washington, where lawmakers expressed concern about the J&K situation. The EU team includes MEPs from Italy, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Poland, and Slovakia. All the MEPs, barring three, belong to far-right parties of their countries.
‘Visit will help team know diversity of J&K, Ladakh’
All the six French MEPs are from Le Pen’s National Front, all the six Polish members are from the ruling far-right party and the four British MEPs belong to the Brexit Party. “Their visit to J&K should give the delegation a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh,” an official statement from the PMO said.
Without naming Pakistan, Modi told the EU lawmakers that urgent action was required against all those who support or sponsor terror activities and use terrorism as a state policy.At their meeting with the NSA, Doval is learnt to have briefed them about the J&K issue, stressing that it was an internal matter of India.
The MEPs also met some Kashmiri leaders such as PDP patron Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Congress’ Usman Majid and former People’s Democratic Party leader Altaf Bukhari. Sources said Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Amitabh Mattoo, BJP’s J&K Khalid Jehangir and two editors of Kashmiri dailies also met the team.
Truck driver shot dead; grenade lobbed at crowd
Srinagar: A driver who was loading apples into his truck was shot dead by terrorists in Anantnag on Monday. This is the fourth such attack. Earlier, 20 civilians were injured in a grenade attack in Sopore