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Friday May 24, 2024

Modi takes Islamophobic MEPs to IoK

In desperation, Modi takes far-right and Islamophobic members of European Parliament to occupied Kashmir

By Javad M Goraya
October 29, 2019

India, under extreme pressure from the international community to justify its denial of political and other rights to Kashmiris, arranged a non-official visit to Kashmir today of a group of 27 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) , 22 of whom are from far-right political parties. Most of these parties are known for their Islamophobic statements and extremist views.

This was the first foreign delegation that visited occupied Jammu and Kashmir after  the revocation of Article 370. 

The visit of the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) in their private capacity was arranged by a lesser known NGO called WESTT headed by a CEO of Indian origin Ms Madi Sharma. Mr Modi’s regime was under extreme pressure after the Oct 22 hearing of Foreign Relations Committee of US Congress House of Representative to inquire about the human rights abuses in Kashmir. US State Department Assistant Secretary for South Asia, Ms Alice Wells, Chairman of Foreign Asia subcommittee on Asia , Bred Sherman and a number of members of Congress were critical of non-access of diplomats, members of Congress and journalists to Kashmir to ascertain political and the human rights situation.

A member of European Parliament from the UK, Theresa Griffin, who was not a part of the delegation, said that the group of far-right MEPs currently visiting Kashmir are not in any way an "official" delegation. She added that they did not speak for the European Parliament. Wells added that the shutdown in Kashmir must end and constitutional rule of law be restored. Another European Union MP from North West England, Chris Davies, was allegedly uninvited from visiting Kashmir after he expressed the desire to "travel freely, unaccompanied". Chris Davies was a part of the group of EU MPs who were invited to visit Kashmir to see the situation on the ground.

Meanwhile, the markets remained shut since Tuesday morning as the delegation arrived in Srinagar amid reports of clashes between the protestors and security forces. The delegation has not met the general public and were made to meet newly elected members of lower tier local bodies. These were elected on Oct 24th which were boycotted by all main parties of Jammu and Kashmir and Indian Congress and other parties. Mr Modi had claimed 98% turnout in these elections which is not accepted by any Kashmir and Indian opposition parties. Indian military commanders briefed the EU delegation also in the state managed visit.The MEPs were taken to a secluded part of Dal Lake to show normalcy. The reality is that Kashmiris are suffering from all kinds of hardships in movements, education and medical care. President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Ashiq said a couple of days back that Kashmir economy has suffered a loss of nearly Rs 10,000 crore (approx. USD 1.5 billion) after Indian annexation. The 100 day curfew in 2016 had cost Kashmiris over USD 2 billion.

Indian Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka have criticized the Modi government to allow access to European members of parliament on a guided tour to Kashmir while India’s own parliamentarians were denied permission. Rahul said that there was something wrong about the visit and Priyanka termed it “Unique Nationalism”.

Indian senior politicians who voted for Mr Modi’s annexation of Kashmir heavily criticized their government’s desperate act to invite a group of MEPs in their private capacity to ward off criticism by different foreign ministries and multi-lateral agencies. Rajya Sabha Member, Mr Subramanian Swamy, who is a loud supporter of the Kashmir annexation, expressed astonishment as to why the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has arranged a visit of European Union MPs to Kashmir in their private capacity. He added that this is a perversion of national policy and urged the government to cancel the visit. 

US Assistant Secretary of State Ms Alice Wells told the Foreign Relations committee on Oct 22 that the Indian government has not allowed any US diplomat to visit Kashmir after Aug 5th annexation. Ms Alice Wells after repeated questions by members assured the Foreign Relations committee that she is strongly and persistently demanding of Indian government to allow access to members of Congress, US diplomats and international journalists to Kashmir. In the special hearing, a number of Members of Congress had asked for a first-hand account of blockade of communication facilities, detention of thousands of locals including children of age 10, hundreds of political leaders, difficulties in getting medical care besides other issues.

On October 3, US Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s who was in India for a conference, requested for a visit to Srinagar which was declined by the Indian government. Over 50 members of both houses of US Congress have written to President Trump, the UN and the Indian government to restore political and other human rights of Kashmiris. UN special rapporteurs at the Human Rights Council said in their statements that request to visit Kashmir was turned down.

Indian Congress’ leader and member Rajya Sabha, Jairam Ramesh, on MEPs visit said on Monday, “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!”

Mr Jairam Ramesh stated that it’s beyond comprehension as to why a group (not official delegation) of 27 MEPs - 22 of them affiliated to far-right parties - are visiting India in a private capacity - organized by an NGO and being taken to Kashmir. Another senior Congress leader Mr Shashi Tharoor called it an insult to the Indian democracy.

The majority of MEPs from different European countries belong to parties with far-right agenda of Anti-Immigration and some are known for their Islamophobic statements. According to Indian media, six members from France’s far-right Rassemblement party, five from the Polish far-right Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, four from the UK’s right-wing Brexit Party, two each from Italy’s far-right Lega Party and Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland as well as members of the Czech Republic's centre-Right KDU-ČSL, Belgium’s right-wing Vlaams Belang and Spain’s far-Right VOX. The delegation met Indian prime minister and national security advisor, on Monday.