J&K visit: EU MPs reject fascist label, say Article 370 an internal issue

Members of European Union Parliamentary delegation during a shikara ride at Dal Lake in Srinagar, Tuesday. Protest broke out in many parts of the city as European Union MPs visited the valley. Photo: PTI

The 23-member delegation of European Union MPs, who are currently visiting Kashmir have said that they stand by India’s war against global terrorism even though Article 370 was an internal issue of the country and that they are in the valley only to get a first-hand knowledge of the situation, during an interaction with the media on Wednesday (October 30).

“If we talk about Article 370, it is India’s internal matter. What concerns us is terrorism which is a global menace and we should stand with India in fighting it. There was an unfortunate incident of killing of five innocent labourers by terrorists. We condemn it,” said Henri Malosse from France referring to the killing of six non-Kashmiri labourers at Kulgam on Tuesday.

Four of the 27 lawmakers invited to India, dropped out of the visit earlier. The press meet which was conducted on the last day of the MPs’ two-day visit to the valley completely excluded the local media and included only select media houses.

Also read: EU delegation’s unofficial Kashmir visit proving to be ‘PR disaster’ for BJP

Thierry Mariani, also from France, told the media that he had been to India many times and this visit was not to interfere in the internal matter of India but to get a first-hand knowledge of the ground situation in Kashmir. “Terrorists can destroy a country. I have been to Afghanistan and Syria and I have seen what terrorism has done. We stand with India in its fight against terrorism,” he said. “By calling us fascists, our image has been tarnished. It’s better that one should know about us properly before tarnishing our image,” he added, referring to some media reports.

Malosse said the team got a briefing from the army and police as well as young activists and exchanged “ideas of peace”.

Newton Dunn from the UK described the visit, aimed at getting a first-hand assessment of the situation after the revocation of the state’s special status under Article 370, as an “eye-opener”.

“We belong to a place, Europe, which is peaceful after years of fighting. And we want to see India becoming the most peaceful country in the world. And for that we need to stand by India in its fight against global terrorism. This visit has been an eye opener and we would definitely advocate what we have seen on ground zero,” he told reporters.

Discussing the takeaways from their visits the EU parliamentarians said they were impressed by the scenic beauty of the valley and the people with who they spoke to. They said Kashmiris during an interaction told them that they are Indian citizens and want to be treated like everyone else as well as have development like in other parts of the country.

“The youngsters in the valley have a dream of a better living and peace in the region. My advice to resolve issues ailing the valley is through talks,” said one of the members.

Also read: ‘Friendly’ EU team to whitewash Modi govt actions in Kashmir 

Hinting how fake news on Kashmir paints a wrong picture of the Valley, MEP from Poland Ryszard Czarnecki said that each of them will go back and apprise their political parties about their observations in the valley.

This is the first such visit by any international delegation to Kashmir after the Indian government’s abrogation of Article 370 that stripped the valley of its special status.

The delegation was ferried in a bulletproof vehicle to their hotel after landing in Srinagar on Tuesday. After a briefing by Jammu and Kashmir’s chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam and police chief Dilbag Singh, the team interacted with newly-elected panchayat members and councillors as well as the police who briefed them about the terrorist activities in the valley.

NDTV reported that while no prominent civil society group, trade body or mainstream Kashmiri political party were allowed to meet the delegation, two MPs of National Conference were turned away when they requested to meet the EU parliamentarians.

Later on Tuesday, the delegation had lunch with the army and were taken on a shikara ride on the Dal Lake. Reports said the boating took place near the Centaur Hotel, where almost 30 politicians and activists are under detention since August 5.

The lawmakers belong from far-right parties, with the exception of three who belong to left or liberal parties.

Also read: Not part of ‘Kashmir PR stunt’, EU MP asks what India is hiding 

The visit, has been criticised by many political parties, especially at a time when several Indian politicians have been refused entry to the valley after the abrogation of Article 370. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who was not allowed to enter Srinagar in August tweeted, “MPs from Europe are welcome to go on a guided tour of Jammu and Kashmir while Indian MPs are banned entry. There is something very wrong with that.”

The Shiv Sena on Wednesday slammed the visit, asserting it is not an “international issue”. “Isn’t the EU delegation’s visit an external invasion of India’s independence and sovereignty?” an editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamana; wondered, while questioning the rationale behind allowing the foreign team to visit Jammu and Kashmir.

“When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was still criticised for taking the issue to the United Nations (UN), why were the EU parliamentarians allowed to visit Kashmir?” it sought to know.

Nicolaus Fest, one of the MPs of the European Union commented, “I think if you let in European Union parliamentarians, you should also let in opposition politicians from India. So there is some kind of disbalance, the government should somehow address it.”

Chris Davies, a member of the European Parliament from North West English had told India Today earlier that he was allegedly uninvited from visiting Kashmir after he expressed his desire to “travel freely, unaccompanied”. His invite to Kashmir was cancelled on October 10. He had told that he would rather not be part of “a PR stunt for the Modi government”. “I am not prepared to take part in a PR stunt for the Modi government and pretend that all is well. It is very clear that democratic principles are being subverted in Kashmir, and the world needs to start taking notice,” he had told India Today in an email interaction.