SRINAGAR – The National Conference on Thursday said it was “disappointed” with the way the government brought envoys from various countries to Jammu and Kashmir to “endorse” its “claims of normalcy” in the union territory.
The party alleged that the envoys have been brought to the Valley on a “guided tour”, where access has been limited to “handpicked individuals who toe the government line”.
“The National Conference is disappointed with the way foreign envoys have been brought to the valley to endorse the Centre’s claims of normalcy,” it said.
Envoys from 15 countries, including US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster, arrived here on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.
“The NC wishes to ask these envoys that if the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is “normal”, then why are scores of people, including three former chief ministers, under detention for almost 160 days and why have the people been denied access to the internet for over 5 months?” a statement issued by the party said.
The party described the visit of enjoys from 15 countries to Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday as a “repeat visit” of the European Members of Parliament to the erstwhile state earlier.
The NC said while these visits may provide “short lived propaganda victories”, true normalcy will only be achieved when all detainees are released, communications and internet restored and “genuine” political activity resumed.
“While the rest of the country is told that peaceful dissent is the cornerstone of democracy, this right does not seem to extend to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Are the people of J and K expected to live without the fundamental rights accorded to other Indian citizens?” it said.
Officials said envoys of several countries had requested the government for a visit to Kashmir to get a first-hand account of the situation in the Valley following the August 5 decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 and bifurcate it into union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
This is the second visit of a foreign delegation to Jammu and Kashmir since August 5. Earlier, Delhi-based think tank International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies took 23 EU MPs on a two-day visit to assess the situation in the union territory.
The government had distanced itself from the visit with Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy informing Parliament that the European parliamentarians were on a “private visit”.
Govt Trying To Normalise Its Clampdown: PDP
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday said the visit of envoys of various countries to Jammu and Kashmir was an attempt by the government to “normalise its clampdown” in the Valley, daring the Centre to allow the dignitaries to meet the detained political leaders.
“Today that @PMOIndia lets a 2nd batch of envoys to “see” the situation in #Kashmir, it only seems like an attempt to normalize the Govts own clampdown. The dare is on @PMOIndia will they ever let these Foreign Envoys meet political detainees who are jailed since 160 days now?” the PDP said on its official Twitter handle.
Envoys from 15 countries, including US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster, arrived in Srinagar on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.
The envoys, who are here as part of the government’s diplomatic, met some political leaders, including former PDP leader Syed Altaf Bukhari, soon after their arrival.
The PDP, commenting on a meeting of breakaway leaders of the party led by Bukhari with Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu earlier this week, said the government “jails those who aided its democracy and strings up puppets who are ready to bargain at the cheapest price”.
“The government should understand that those who really love Kashmiri soil are not for sale!” it said.
Stop Political Tourism, Congress Tells Govt
The Congress on Thursday accused the government of “adopting double standards” by organising “guided tours” to Jammu and Kashmir for foreign envoys, but not allowing Indian politicians to visit there.
The party launched a broadside against the government hours after envoys from 15 countries including United States Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster arrived in Srinagar on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first by diplomats since August last year when the then state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to two union territories.
“The government is adopting double standards by allowing foreign envoys to visit Jammu and Kashmir, but not Indian politicians,” senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said at a press conference.
He, however, clarified that the Congress party was not opposed to such a visit, but Indian politicians should also be allowed to visit there.
Ramesh said this was the second such attempt by the government, after the one planned for delegates of EU Parliamentarians on October 29 last year.
At that time after facing criticism, the government had to say that it was an informal visit and not an official one, the Congress leader said.
“We do not oppose this visit of foreign envoys. But when our own politicians are not allowed to go to Jammu and Kashmir to meet people there, what is the purpose of taking foreign envoys there?” he posed.
Ramesh said three former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir were still under house arrest and one ex-CM, who was also the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha — Ghulam Nabi Azad — had to seek the permission from the Supreme Court to visit the Union territory.
When a Parliamentary delegation, opposition leaders, former Congress president and CPI(M) general secretary, could not go to Jammu and Kashmir, then what was the purpose of taking foreign envoys there, Ramesh asked.
“We demand that the government allows unfettered access to Jammu and Kashmir to all politicians and not resort to guided tours for envoys,” he said.
Ramesh said the Congress wants that meaningful political activities start in Jammu and Kashmir immediately and “political tourism” for foreign envoys stops. “It is important to stop such guided tours.”
“In the last five months, no meaningful political activity has taken place in Jammu and Kashmir. The Congress party wants that meaningful political activities start in Jammu and Kashmir immediately. Political tourism of taking envoys to Jammu and Kashmir should stop,” Ramesh said.