New Delhi, Oct 29: A delegation of 27 members from the European Parliament (MEPs)- mostly from right wing parties is on Jammu and Kashmir visit on Tuesday to assess the ground situation and meet top officials of the state in wake of the abrogation of Article 370.
Three senior leaders from Jammu and Kashmir – one from the PDP and one from the Congress, were present at Monday’s lunch for the lawmakers from European Union, hosted by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
The three Kashmiri leaders present on the occasion included the state’s former Deputy Chief Minister Muzafar Baig, a leader of Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party and Altaf Bukhari who was earlier with the PDP. Congress leader Usman Majeed was also present.
This visit is a first by an international group to Jammu and Kashmir since the government ended the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution. The 27 lawmakers, who are on a private visit to India, discussed the situation with Doval and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress has sharply criticised the government’s move to allow the European lawmakers to visit Jammu and Kashmir, pointing out that the opposition leaders were barred from visiting the region.
The delegation included Joana Kopcinska, Grzegorz Tobiszowski, Ryszard Czarnecki, Kosma Zlotowski, Bogdan Rzonca, Elzbieta Rafalska from Poland; Silvia Sardone, Gianna Gancia, Fulvio Martusciello, Guiseppe Ferrandino from Italy; France Jamet, Nicholas Bay, Virginie Joron, Julie Lechanteux, Maxette Pirbakas, and Thierry Mariani from France; Bernhard Zimniok and Lars Patrick Berg from Germany, Hermann Tertsch from Spain, Tom Vandendriessche from Belgium, David Richard Bull, Bill Newton Dunn Alexandra Phillips, James Wells and Nathan Gill from the UK; Tomas Zdechobsky from the Czech Republic and Peter Pollak from Slovakia.
Late in August, Congress’s Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders were turned away from the Srinagar airport when they tried to visit Jammu and Kashmir.
The delegation left for Kashmir on Tuesday morning, a day after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in the national capital on Monday. The team will also meet Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik and locals during the visit.
“It is a good opportunity for us to go into Kashmir as a foreign delegation and to be able to see first hand for ourselves what is happening on the ground,” news agency ANI quoted Nathan Gill, Member of European Parliament from Wales, as saying.