NEW DELHI – Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Left, slammed the BJP government on Tuesday for allowing European Union MPs to visit Kashmir while denying permission to Indian parliamentarians, even as the BJP defended the action saying nobody has stopped them from visiting the Valley.
The Congress stepped up its attack on the government terming allowing the EU MPs a “national embarrassment” and sought accountability.
The National Conference (NC) termed it a ‘PR stunt’ and the CPI-M said it is an “affront” to Parliament and its sovereignty, even as a CPI leader wrote to Modi requesting him that he be allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir as foreign delegates have been accorded a ‘red carpet’ welcome.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the BJP’s nationalism is strange, allowing European MPs to visit and interfere in Kashmir while Indian MPs are sent back from the airport.
Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said the government has embarked on an “ill-advised PR exercise, sponsoring individuals with questionable credentials”.
“EU MPs representing parties and ideologies in direct conflict with the mainstream. Diplomatic disaster which ended up internationalising what is essentially our internal issue. National embarrassment. Those responsible should be held accountable,” Sharma said in a series of tweets.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati said the government should have allowed opposition party MPs to visit Jammu and Kashmir before sending EU MPs to assess the situation there.
“…before sending EU MPs to Kashmir to assess the current situation there, it would have been better if the government had allowed the MPs of (our) country, especially opposition parties, to go there,” Mayawati tweeted in Hindi.
A 23-member delegation of European Union parliamentarians reached Kashmir on Tuesday for a first-hand assessment of the situation after the state’s special status was revoked in August.
“European MPs allowed to visit and interfere in Kashmir, but when Indian MPs and leaders go there they are sent back from the airport. This kind of nationalism is very strange,” Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
Another Congress general secretary, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said while he did not have any objection to parliamentarians of the EU visiting Kashmir, he is opposed to the government not allowing Indian MPs to visit the state.
“This is an insult to the Indian Parliament by allowing the members of EU to visit Jammu and Kashmir. This is also an insult to the people, of whom they are representatives,” Azad said.
“When I tried to visit Srinagar a week after the scrapping of Article 370, I had to wait for five hours at the Srinagar airport and return to Delhi. After this, I also tried to go to Jammu, but was again stopped at the Jammu airport,” he said.
The NC termed the visit a “PR exercise” and said such “stunts” are not the answer to the situation in the region.
“The visit of the selected EU MPs, largely of a particular ideology, is clearly a PR exercise. It is ironical that European MPs are visiting the Valley when the state’s leaders including three former chief ministers, are incarcerated for nearly three months now, and hundreds of others are in jails across the country,” the NC said in a statement.
“The National Conference would like to underline that PR stunts are not an answer to the unprecedented situation prevailing since August 5. The Centre should instead take concrete steps to heal the wounds of the people. That is possible only when those who have been incarcerated are released, democracy is restored and a dialogue initiated with all stakeholders of Jammu and Kashmir,” it said.
The CPI-M politburo, in a statement, said it was an “affront” of the Indian Parliament and its sovereignty that Indian MPs and political leadership of national parties are denied the freedom of visiting the Valley while a “private visit” by foreign Parliament members was being allowed.
“Though it is claimed that this is a private visit, the prime minister has met them and they are also being briefed by the National Security Advisor.
“There can be no special privilege for a group of foreign parliamentarians to visit the Valley while it is denied to others, including our own MPs and national political leadership, with most of the known political leaders of the state continuing to remain in custody and detention,” the letter said.
CPI leader Binoy Viswam wrote to Modi requesting that he be allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir since a foreign delegation was given a “red carpet” entry into the region.
“It is everybody’s question, why the government disallow any responsible Indian citizen, including Members of Parliament, to enter the territory of Kashmir. Now, the government has spread red carpet for the European Union MPs.
“In this background, I seek your permission to visit Kashmir and meet with the ordinary people,” Viswam said in his letter.
Azad said under the leadership of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, a delegation of opposition leaders tried to go to Srinagar, but it also had to return after waiting for four hours at the airport.
“Leaders and Indian MPs are not allowed to visit the state, but they are taking MPs of the EU to the state. This is a conducted tour. It is like when we go abroad, we are guided during the conducted tour,” he said.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister claimed 85 per cent of telephones are not working in the state and there is no Internet or WhatsApp, even as schools are closed.