11:43 GMT +312 November 2019
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    An Indian security force personnel stands guard in a street early morning during restrictions following scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the Indian government, in Srinagar, September 27, 2019

    Visit by EU Parliamentarians to India’s Kashmir Stokes Controversy over Sponsorship

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    New Delhi (Sputnik): A group of 23 European Union parliamentarians visited India’s restive Kashmir on Tuesday and Wednesday (29 and 30 October). Though 27 parliamentarians were sent an invitation, only 23 could make it.

    Theresa Griffin, a Member of the European Parliament from Britain has meanwhile, clarified that “the Group of far-right MEPs currently visiting #Kashmir are not in any way an “official” delegation”. She has also asked New Delhi to end the shutdown in Kashmir and restore the “constitutional rule of law".

    ​Though the federal Indian government sought to pass off the visit as “private”, it stoked a controversy in the political circles of New Delhi, after evidence of a business broker’s involvement surfaced. The invitation for the visit was extended by one Madi Sharma, whose credentials on her Twitter handle say, “Social Capitalist: International Business Broker: Education Entrepreneur: Speaker”.

    “I am organising a prestigious VIP meeting with the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency Narendra Modi and it is my privilege to offer this invitation to you…", reads the invitation accessed and shared on social media by a senior journalist.

    ​India’s main opposition Congress Party has criticised the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “involving a third party to assess the ground situation in Kashmir”. The party spokesperson said in a tweet in Hindi, “By doing so, the Government has insulted India’s sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir”.

    ​Prior to their departure to Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, the delegation had a meeting with Prime Minister Modi and his National Security Advisor Ajit Dobal in New Delhi. In Srinagar they held meetings with senior civil, police and military officials, who briefed them about the situation on the ground in the troubled valley.

    Reports indicate that no member of civil society, trade body, or mainstream political party leader from Kashmir was allowed to meet the EU lawmakers. Mediapersons from Kashmir also were not invited or allowed at a press conference, held at the conclusion of the delegation's visit.

    One of the delegation members from Spain – Hermann Tertsche said, “We are conscious of the fact that we are being kept away from some people”.

    Kashmir has been on tenterhooks since New Delhi revoked Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution in early August to strip the state of its special status and divided it into two federally administered territories.

    Dozens of political leaders, including three former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir are still in custody, while mobile internet and pre-paid mobile services are yet to be restored.

    The government has not allowed leaders of mainstream political parties or parliamentarians of India to visit the state. However, two leaders – Ghulam Nabi Azad, a former chief minister of the state and senior Congress leader and Sitaram Yechuri, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) managed to make a conditional visit to the state, armed with an order from the Supreme Court of India.


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