EU MPs Enjoy a Boat Ride in Srinagar Amidst Lockdown, UK MP Calls Visit a 'Publicity Stunt'
23 EU MPs in Srinagar
SRINAGAR: The 23 MPs of the European Union went to Kashmir this morning after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. After the “impressive” briefing as one of them described it they landed in Srinagar to be further briefed by the Army, even as clashes broke out in different parts of Srinagar amidst a complete shut down.
The convoy in bullet proof vehicles passed through empty streets manned by soldiers in full gear. They went for a shikara ride on the Dal lake, deserted except for them.
Their vist came after a senior UK politician Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies said that he was banned for an official visit to Kashmir as he had demanded that he speak with local people without a police escort. Davies said that he was invited by Indian officials but the invitation was promptly withdrawn with little explanation after he insisted that he should be able to invite journalists without interrogation, and speak to local Kashmiris without security presence.
In a statement Davies said, "I am not prepared to take part in a PR stunt for the Modi government and pretend that all is well. It is very clear that democratic principles are being subverted in Kashmir, and the world needs to start taking notice.
"What is it that the Indian government has to hide? Why will it not give journalists and visiting politicians free access to speak with local people?
"I represent thousands of people in the North West of England who have family associations with Kashmir. They want to be able to speak freely to their relatives. They want their voices to be heard.
"I fear that this is not going to end well. Governments do not win the hearts and minds of people by taking away their freedoms and imposing military rule. The risk of a violent backlash is all too evident.”
The visit of the mostly right wing Parliamentarians from the EU, many of them on record with anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric has been marred with controversy. Opposition leaders in Delhi, and in particular the Congress party and the Left, have raised questions about the government permission to a foreign delegation to visit Kashmir in the wake of its refusal to allow Indian MPs to visit the Valley. Former Congress chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam Nabi Azad described it as a “conducted tour.” Leaders Rahul Gandhi and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted wondering at the government’s decision to detain visiting Indian parliamentarians and opening all doors for the foreign delegation.
In Srinagar the locals remained locked behind doors. As did the political leaders like the Abdullahs and Mehbooba Mufti who remain under arrest. Clashes were reported, and tight restrictions imposed across the state.
The Citizen Photographer Basit Zargar recorded the EU MPs happy boat ride on Dal lake in the following photographs: