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  • India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses for a picture with a delegation of members of the European Parliament after their meeting in New Delhi, India, October 28, 2019.

    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses for a picture with a delegation of members of the European Parliament after their meeting in New Delhi, India, October 28, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 October 2019
Opinion

The visit marked the first foreign delegation, although not an official mission from the European Union, to travel Kashmir since New Delhi revoked its semi-autonomous status and imposed a violent crackdown in on Aug. 5. 

A delegation of mostly far-right members of the European Parliament visited occupied Kashmir Tuesday, in what many called a “PR stunt” for far-right India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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Of the 27 EU lawmakers, many belong to anti-establishment parties like the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Marine Le Pen's National Rally in France. Sitaram Yechury, an Indian opposition politician, criticized the delegation as "overwhelmingly from ultra-right-wing, pro-fascist parties."  

The visit marked the first foreign delegation, although not an official mission from the European Union, to travel Kashmir since New Delhi revoked its semi-autonomous status and imposed a violent crackdown in on Aug. 5. 

One member from the United Kingdom’s centrist Liberal Democrats, Chris Davies, said the Indian government withdrew his invitation after he insisted on being able to talk to locals without a police escort.

"I am not prepared to take part in a PR stunt for the Modi government and pretend that all is well," Davies said in a statement.

The MEPs met with Modi on Monday as the Indian government said that the aim was to give the deputies "a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity" of the region.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said she hopes the visit indicates the lifting of what she described as an "iron curtain" imposed by New Delhi between Kashmir and the rest of the world.

During the visit to Srinagar, the main city, police fired tear gas and shotgun pellets as about 40 clashes flared across the Kashmir Valley, officials said.

The region is observing an indefinite shutdown since Aug. 5 as the government has deployed additional troops numbering in tens of thousands in the troubled region to implement Section 144, which does not allow more than four persons to assemble.

The ruling over Occupied Kashmir will now allow Indian Hindus to purchase properties in Jammu and Kashmir, which activists say warned would be a similar policy to that of Israeli settlements in Palestine. 

Along with revoking the special status, the government divided the state in two Union Territories, meaning they will be ruled by the federal government while losing statehood. 

Access to postpaid mobile phones was only restored on Oct. 14 and the internet remains cut off for the Muslim-majority area's more than seven million people. While hundreds of local politicians, lawyers, and activists still remain in detention.

On Tuesday the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights said that it was "extremely concerned" at the situation, urging “the Indian authorities to unlock the situation and fully restore the rights that are currently being denied."

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