‘Far-Right’ MEPs Stir Controversy in India with First Foreign Visit in Kashmir since Autonomy Revoking
Indian opposition politicans have complained that even Indian MPs have been banned from visiting Kashmir while far-right MEPs have been allowed to do so.
A total of 27 Members of the European Parliament, most of them deemed “far-right”, have generated a controversy by becoming the first foreign delegation to visit India’s region of Kashmir after the central government stripped off its autonomy.
In August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi moved to revoke the special constitutional status of the region formally known in India as Jammu Kashmir, which had enjoyed autonomy since the Indian declaration of independence back in 1947.
Modi argued the move was needed to combat separatism and terrorism in the restless region disputed by India and Pakistan, with authorities terminating communications, boosting federal troop numbers on the ground, and imposing a curfew – all measures that have angered Kashmiris.
Following the revoking of Kashmir’s special statues, New Delhi has been preventing all foreigners from visiting the region such as UN special rapporteurs, US congressional representatives and foreign journalists.
The group of 27 mostly far-right MEPs on Tuesday thus became the first foreign delegation to be allowed into Kashmir, after meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi on Monday, DW reported.
The formations represented by the MEPs included the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France (formerly the National Front).
According to an official from EU Delegation to India, the visit was entirely unofficial and the MEPs were traveling in their personal capacity.
The EU parliamentarians were to meet with local government officials and residents to assess the current situation on the ground in Kashmir, with India’s leader Modi stating the visit “should give them a clear view of the development and governance priorities of the region.”
Their trip to Kashmir, however, was quickly criticized by Indian opposition politicians, with Sitaram Yechury cautioning that the unofficial delegation came “overwhelmingly from ultra-right wing, pro-fascist parties.”
“This unofficial group is overwhelmingly from ultra-right wing pro-fascist parties having relations with BJP. This explains why our MPs aren’t allowed but Modi welcomes them. 3 ex-CMs and 1000s others are jailed & this group of MEPs is preferred over Indian political parties?” Yechury tweeted.
“Another point to note abt EU delegation to Kashmir: Barring three, all MPs belong to the far-right parties of their countries. All 6 French MPs are from Le Pen’s National Front, all 6 Polish MPs are from ruling far-right party, 4 British MPs are from Brexit Party,” tweeted Niha Masih, India correspondent of the Washington Post.
India’s main opposition Congress party criticized Modi’s government for allowing the European delegation, while denying entry even to Indian MPs.
“MPs from Europe are welcome to go on a guided tour of Jammu and Kashmir while Indian MPs are banned and denied entry. There is something very wrong with that,” said opposition politician Rahul Gandhi in a tweet.
Meanwhile, however, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made clear her hopes the MEPs’ visit indicated the lifting of what she described as an “iron curtain” imposed by New Delhi between Kashmir and the rest of the world.
Mufti is one of the hundreds of mainstream Kashmiri leaders who have been held in makeshift jails or placed under house arrest since early August.
Presently, India controls about 45% of Kashmir, Pakistan controls 35%, and China has about 20% of the disputed region.
(Banner image: Twitter)