NEW DELHI –The Congress questioned the government on Monday for allowing European Parliament members to visit Jammu and Kashmir but preventing Indian leaders from doing so, claiming it was an insult to India’s democracy and “ultimate disrespect” to its sovereignty.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said there was something very wrong with European MPs being given a guided tour of Jammu and Kashmir and Indian MPs denied entry there.
“MPs from Europe are welcome to go on a guided tour of Jammu & Kashmir while Indian MPs are banned and denied entry. There is something very wrong with that,” he said on Twitter.
Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the party would raise the issue in Parliament, adding India’s decision violates the collective privileges of its MPs. Inviting EU lawmakers to JK is the “ultimate disrespect” to Indian Parliament’s sovereignty, Sharma added.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said by allowing EU MPs to visit Kashmir and not allowing Indian MPs in the valley is an insult to India’s Parliament.
He said Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India and “we will deal with it”. But he asked why the foreign MPs were made stakeholders in Kashmir.
“Jammu and Kashmir belongs to us, then how did those from European Union come. It is our matter and we will handle it. But, why did Modiji make European Union as Kashmir’s stakeholder. While MPs of other countries have the right to visit Kashmir, why do our own not have that right? This Modi government’s fake nationalism is an insult to Parliament,” he alleged in a tweet in Hindi.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh too asked why the “chest-beating champion of nationalism”, an apparent dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has allowed European leaders to visit JK.
“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,” he tweeted.
A group of 27 EU lawmakers will travel to JK on Tuesday, in the first visit by a foreign delegation to Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5. They seek to talk to locals in Jammu and Kashmir and ask them about their experience.
The government has said the diplomatic outreach will allow EU leaders to “see things for themselves” in Kashmir and help it counter Pakistan’s narrative.
Sharma said this government has maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is India’s internal affair “but it has contradicted itself in its eagerness to grab headlines and embarrassed India”.
“This stand of the government is self-defeating and contradicts its consistent position that JK is India’s internal matter. Is this the new version of Indian nationalism,” he asked.
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The deputy deputy leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha said even the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, of which he is the chairman, is yet to be briefed by the government on the JK situation.
“But it has chosen to roll out a red carpet to the EU MPs. This matter will be raised in Parliament and the government will be held to account,” he said.
Sharma said when a delegation of Indian MPs and politicians went to Srinagar, they were detained and so was the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad.
“We were not allowed to meet any resident, community organisation representatives or ordinary citizens, but were detained at the airport,” he 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,” Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted.
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill also questioned the government’s move.
“If EU delegation visit to Kashmir can be facilitated by #BJP Govt then why can’t Indian Leaders belonging to Opposition Parties visit #Kashmir ? Indians have to knock door of Supreme Court to visit Kashmir & EU delegation is welcomed by PMO, Why no level playing field?” he asked on Twitter.
Prime Minister Modi met the EU leaders on Monday and told them that urgent action was needed against those supporting and sponsoring terrorism. He also said that there should be zero tolerance for terrorism.
Expressing hope that the parliamentarians’ visit to various parts of the country will be fruitful, Modi said the visit to Jammu and Kashmir should give them a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The prime minister also hoped that it will give them a clear view of the development and governance priorities for the region, it said.
Meanwhile CPI(M) general-secretary Sitaram Yechury also questioned why members of the European Parliament were being “welcomed” in Jammu and Kashmir when Indian political leaders had been prevented from doing so.
“Then why were Indian political party leaders and MPs repeatedly prevented from exiting Srinagar airport? 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 tweeted.
Yechury and CPI general secretary D Raja were not allowed to visit the state after the abrogation of Article 370 despite repeated attempts. Yechury was allowed to visit his ailing party colleague Yusuf Tarigami after the SC gave its go ahead on the condition that he would not be part of any political activity there.
“The fact that the Indian government is facilitating the visit of the EU delegation shows that this government is desperate and is under pressure to please the international community which has raised several questions on human rights violations in JK. The government is desperate to convince the global community. While it says everything is normal in the region, the ground reality is different,” said Raja.
CPI leader Atul Anjaan alleged that PM Modi was trying to “internationalise” the Kashmir issue by welcoming the delegation of the European Union. He alleged that foreign citizens were being sent to Kashmir by the Indian government.
He further said that all the claims of the government on JK was “false”.