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EU delegation Jammu and Kashmir visit a 'PR stunt' : Panel witnesses clashes, shutdown

EU delegation Jammu and Kashmir visit a PR stunt : Panel witnesses clashes, shutdown
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A delegation of 23 EU MPs, on a two-day visit to assess the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, arrived here on Tuesday to a complete shutdown and clashes between people and security forces in several parts of the city and the Valley.

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Srinagar : A delegation of 23 EU MPs, on a two-day visit to assess the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, arrived here on Tuesday to a complete shutdown and clashes between people and security forces in several parts of the city and the Valley.

A convoy of security vehicles escorted the MPs, who were travelling in bullet-proof vehicles, from the airport to their hotel where a traditional Kashmiri welcome awaited them.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam and police chief Dilbag Singh briefed the members of the European Parliament, the first high-level foreign visitors to Kashmir after the August 5 decision of the Centre to revoke the state's special status and bifurcate it into two union territories.

The team also interacted with members of the public, including the newly-elected panchayat members and councillors, at a five-star hotel here.

As the winter chill settled over the city, there was some boating in the famed waters of the Dal Lake too. The MPs were boating near the Centaur Hotel, where more than 30 politicians and activists have been under detention since August 5.

There was a complete shutdown in the city and at least four people were injured in numerous clashes between protesters and security forces in various parts of the Valley and in Srinagar, officials said. People put up blockades in at least five different places in Srinagar, including Downtown Srinagar and 90 Feet Road.

Shops and business establishments were closed and transport off the roads due to the clashes. There were also some incidents of stone pelting.

Vendors, who had been setting up their stall over the past weeks, also did not turn up on Tuesday, officials said. However, board examinations for Class 10 were held on schedule with worried parents waiting outside exam halls for their children.

The team originally comprised 27 parliamentarians, many from extreme right or right wing parties, but four did not travel to Kashmir and have reportedly returned to their respective countries, officials said without divulging any reason.

Terming the visit of European Union MPs to Jammu and Kashmir as a "PR exercise", the National Conference on Tuesday said such "stunts" are not the answer to the situation in the region.

'BJP's nationalism is strange'

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.

The Congress has said it is an insult to the sovereignty of Parliament and to India's democracy.

The 23 EU MPs are the first high-level foreign visitors to Kashmir after the August 5 decision of the Centre to revoke Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 and bifurcate the state into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Ghulam Nabi Azad slammed the BJP-led central government for allowing European Union parliamentarians to visit Jammu and Kashmir, but not the country's opposition leaders.

"I don't have an objection to the European Union Parliament delegation visiting Jammu and Kashmir. What I object to is that the MPs of our own country are not being allowed to visit the place.

I myself tried to visit Srinagar several times but I was sent back," Azad said addressing a public gathering. He said that he was finally allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir after the Supreme Court's permission.

AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi hit out at the BJP-led central government for the visit of an EU delegation to Kashmir and said the members of the delegation suffer from "Islamophobia" and are "Nazi Lovers".

CPI leader Binoy Viswam wrote to Prime Minister Narendra 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.

As an Indian citizen, it was his right to visit fellow citizens in Kashmir, he added. "I earnestly hope that, you will take necessary steps to realise," the CPI leader wrote.

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