New Delhi – A British MP heading a parliamentary group on Kashmir was denied entry into India despite a valid visa after she landed at the airport here, a charge denied by the government which said she had been informed that her e-visa was cancelled.
Debbie Abrahams, a Labour Party member and chairperson of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir, said in a statement that she arrived in Delhi on Monday morning and was informed that her e-visa, which was valid till October 2020, had been cancelled.
A Home Ministry spokesperson said the British parliamentarian had been duly informed that her visa was cancelled and she arrived in Delhi despite knowing this fact.
When contacted, Abrahams told PTI she “had not received any emails before February 13”. After that, she had been travelling and was away from office.
Her e-visa was reportedly issued last October, and was valid until October 2020.
She was put on a flight to Dubai after 4pm as a “deportee” with her passport being held by the crew, according to a report in the British newspaper, the Mirror.
The deportation took place less than a week after New Delhi organised a conducted tour of European envoys in Kashmir.
Recounting her experience at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, she said in a statement on Twitter that she arrived here on Monday morning and was informed that her e-visa been cancelled.
In her statement, Abrahams said she had presented herself at the immigration desk along with her documents and e-visa.
“…the official looked at his screen and started shaking his head. Then he told me my visa was rejected took my passport and disappeared for about 10 minutes.
“When he came back he was very rude and aggressive shouting at me to ‘come with me’. I told him not to speak to me like that and was then taken to a cordoned off area marked as a Deportee Cell. He then ordered me to sit down and I refused. I didn’t know what they might do or where else they may take me, so I wanted people to see me,” the British MP said.
The immigration officer disappeared again, she said, adding that she phoned her sister-in-law’s cousin who she was going to be staying with.
“Kai got in touch with the British High Commission and he tried to find out what was going on,” she wrote on Twitter.
She said later several immigration officials came to her but none of them knew why her e-visa was cancelled. “Even the person who seemed to be in charge said he didn’t know and was really sorry about what had happened.”
According to The independent Abrahams was due to visit friends and family in Delhi for two days before flying on to take part in a formal delegation to Pakistan-administered Kashmir. MP believed she was blacklisted over the fact she had “expressed concerns” about the Modi administration’s actions, as well as her onward travel plans.
“I can’t see it not being connected,” she said.
The 59-year-old Abrahams represents the Oldham East and Saddleworth parliamentary constituency which has a sizeable Kashmiri population.
Abrahams was among a group of MPs who issued formal letters following the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 in August last year.
“We are gravely concerned at the announcement by Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, has been removed by Presidential Order”, the Opposition MP had noted in her letter to the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at the time.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor asked why the government was scared of critics if the situation in Kashmir was normal. “If things are fine in Kashmir, shouldn’t the government encourage critics to witness the situation themselves to put their fears to rest?” he asked on Twitter.
“Instead of conducting tours for pliant MEPs and polite ambassadors alone, surely the head of a Parliamentary Group on the subject is worth cultivating?”
India had on August 5 last year revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and imposed a lockdown in the state. The Indian government had also split the state into the two Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. In recent months, the government has put several senior political leaders from Kashmir under the stringent Public Security Act.
However, India has allowed two groups of foreign envoys to visit Srinagar over the past six months. The first case was a visit by mostly far-right MEPs of the European Parliament. A second visit by envoys took place earlier this month. –With inputs from PTI