Even as sporadic incidents of violence were reported from the Valley, a delegation of Members of European Parliament (MEPs) reached Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday to assess the situation on ground and met various groups.
This is the first foreign delegation to visit the restive region after the Centre withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories (UTs) on August 5.
The MEPs, who first checked into at a five-star hotel on their arrival, were taken to the Army’s 15 Corps headquarters at Badami Bagh where top army commanders briefed them about the situation in Kashmir.
The Indian Army, briefed them on several things, including on “the role of Pakistan in fuelling terrorism in the Kashmir valley and the role of Pakistani Army in pushing terrorists into India,” news agency ANI reported.
During an interaction, police chief Dilbag Singh said in the last 84 days, not a single life has been lost, reported Press Trust of India. But there have been 98 incidents of terrorists intimidating people and more than 350 times, terrorists threatened people through posters, the officers said, PTI reported.
The delegation then met and interacted with members of the Janata Dal-United and the Bharatiya Janata Party, representatives of panches and the sarpanches from the Valley, as well as some of the newly-elected Block Development Commission members.
In the evening, the MEPs visited Dal Lake and took a ‘shikara’ ride for about 20 minutes before returning to their hotel.
“The visit is good and we have come to know about the situation in Kashmir. This is first-hand experience and we loved the interaction with the local public here,” Virginie Joron, an EU parliamentarian from France, was quoted as saying by PTI, as the trip ended.
An official dinner was hosted by Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, a united opposition of the Congress, PDP, and NC have slammed the Centre for rolling out red carpet to the EU MPs.
The MEPs have come under criticism after it emerged that several of them belonged to right-wing parties in Italy, France and Germany.
In all, 22 of the 27 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are right-wing politicians in their respective countries.
Reportedly, four of the 27 lawmakers dropped out of the visit and flew back to their countries.
Ahead of the visit, Thierry Mariani, a Euro MP for France’s far-right National Rally, was quoted as telling AFP, “We are going to see the situation in Kashmir, at least what they want to show us.”
Meanwhile, Theresa Griffin, a member of the European Union from Britain, said that the EU delegation visiting Jammu and Kashmir to assess the situation on-ground “does not represent the European Parliament”.
To be absolutely clear – the group of far-right MEPs currently visiting #Kashmir are not in any way an “official” delegation. They do not speak for the European Parliament. The shutdown in Kashmir must be ended and constitutional rule of law restored. https://t.co/e6bVILYm8a
— Theresa Griffin MEP (@TheresaMEP) October 29, 2019
Another MP, Chris Davis, claimed he was dropped from the trip after he insisted on “free access to speak with local people.” The Liberal Democrat MP said he had asked to be allowed to move around without security escort and speak to anyone, to make his own assessment about the situation.
On the EU delegation visit, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “To justify a hare-brained disruptive decision, India’s democratic credentials are being sullied internationally.”
To justify a hare brained disruptive decision , India’s democratic credentials are being sullied internationally.
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) October 29, 2019
The visit, however, triggered violence in Kashmir.
Incidents of stone-pelting and clashes were reported from several areas in Srinagar including Chanpora, Rambagh, Maisuma and others, leaving six people reportedly injured.
Shops and businesses remained closed and even private transport was playing less than routine in view of heightened tension.
In some areas, youths had blocked the road to prevent the movement of traffic.
There were also reports of firing on a security patrol in Drubgaon in Pulwama in south Kashmir, but no injuries were reported so far. The area was cordoned off after the firing, with additional forces.
The delegation’s visit also comes on a day when five labourers from West Bengal were killed and one injured in an attack by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
Such incidents in the valley have been on a rise. Earlier, on Monday night a truck driver was shot dead by terrorists in Anantnag and terrorists also fired at security personnel stationed at a school in Pulwama. Last Thursday, drivers of two apple-laden trucks were shot dead when terrorists attacked a convoy of trucks in South Kashmir’s Shopian district. The trucks, heading for fruit markets elsewhere in the country, were set on fire before the terrorists escaped from the spot.
Earlier this month, three non-Kashmiri workers were killed by terrorists in the Valley.
A Punjab-based apple trader was killed by militants in the Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir on October 16.
A day before, terrorists shot dead a migrant labourer from Chhattisgarh in Kakpora area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
A truck driver from Rajasthan was killed by terrorists in Shopian on October 14.
The attacks are part of Pakistan-backed terrorists’ game plan to terrorise traders, including apple traders, from going about business, which the government has been boosting.
Ahead of their visit to Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed hope that they will have a fruitful visit to various parts of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir. “Their visit to J-K should give the delegation a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region, apart from giving a clear view of development and governance priorities of the region,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement.