Clashes erupt as far-right EU lawmakers visit held Kashmir

Published October 30, 2019
SRINAGAR: A girl throws a stone towards Indian soldiers during a protest on Tuesday.—AP
SRINAGAR: A girl throws a stone towards Indian soldiers during a protest on Tuesday.—AP

SRINAGAR: Dozens of clashes erupted in occupied Kashmir on Tuesday, officials said, as a delegation of mostly far-right European lawmakers paid a controversial visit to the disputed region that was stripped of its autonomy in August.

With a curfew in many parts of the main city, Srinagar, police fired tear gas and shotgun pellets as around 40 clashes flared across the Kashmir Valley, officials said.

It was unclear if there were any injuries.

Late on Monday suspected local fighters shot dead a truck driver, the sixth such killing targeting the vital apple sector, while a grenade injured 20 people elsewhere, authorities said.

The delegation of around 30 European lawmakers — including far-right deputies from Poland, France, Germany and Britain — met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, prompting accusations that it aimed to blunt criticism of New Delhi over occupied Kashmir.

One MEP from Britain’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 delegation included members of the nationalist, anti-immigration and eurosceptic Alternative for Germany party, France’s National Rally, the Brexit Party and Poland’s Law and Justice.

The Indian government said the aim was to give the deputies “a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity” of the disputed region.

An EU official in India stressed that it was “not on an official visit”.

UN concern

On Aug 5 New Delhi revoked the special status of the part of Kashmir that it has occupied. Since then New Delhi has barred scores of its own politicians and a US senator from visiting the disputed Himalayan region. Visits by foreign journalists are also off limits.

Tens of thousands of extra troops were deployed to the region and hundreds of local politicians, lawyers and others were rounded up, most of whom still remain in detention.

The internet remains cut for the more than seven million Kashmiris.

The UN High Commission for Human Rights said on Tuesday that it was “extremely concerned” at the situation. “We urge the Indian authorities to unlock the situation and fully restore the rights that are currently being denied,” it said.

Amid allegations of torture and unconfirmed reports of six dead civilians, it said major political decisions about the region had been taken without the participation of the affected population.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2019

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