Several people who were invited to the National Day celebrations at Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi on Friday have complained that the Delhi Police stopped them to ask for personal details before letting them in. Some claimed that they were advised against attending the event as the Indian government had boycotted it.
Earlier in the day, India had decided to boycott the reception at the High Commission to oppose the invitations sent to several Kashmiri separatist leaders. However, no Kashmiri separatist leader was present at the event, according to ANI.
Pakistan Day commemorates the Lahore Resolution, which was signed on March 23, 1940. It also marks the adoption of Pakistan’s first constitution in 1956 on the same date.
A journalist working with Free Press Journal wrote that she, along with two other senior women journalists, was stopped by “men who on being challenged introduced themselves as Delhi Police personnel”. “They wanted to see the invitation cards and claimed that they were acting on orders to dissuade Indian guests from attending the reception,” the journalist Tripti Nath wrote. “Sensing that the journalists were in no mood to follow such unheard of diktats, they let us go.”
Police personnel asked a reporter of The Indian Express the purpose of the visit, wanted to see the invitation card and noted down the name, designation, organisation, address and mobile number. Security personnel typically note car numbers of visitors to the High Commission, but not personal details, according to The Indian Express.
The guests who refused to share their phone numbers were not allowed to proceed for the event until they did so, PTI reported.
India Today’s Poulomi Saha tweeted a video clip of a purported Indian official interacting with a guest. “Indian government officials standing outside the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi today [Friday] and informing all Indian invitees that the government of India has boycotted the Pakistan National Day programme and requesting them to do the same,” she claimed.
Journalist Aditya Raj Kaul said government officials were informing all Indian guests that the “government of India has decided to boycott the event and now it is for your conscience to decide if you want to attend or not after the deadly Pulwama terror attack”.
Delhi Police detained Kashmiri activist Mohammed Ahsan Untoo outside the High Commission when he was coming for the reception.
An unidentified Delhi Police official told PTI: “The government boycotted the event. However, there were people who came for it. In such circumstances, it was important to note the details of people who were present there and to ascertain reasons for their presence.”
An unidentified retired bureaucrat said: “I have been coming to Pakistan Day reception for the last several years. But for the first time I am facing such harassment. This is totally uncalled for.”
The development came even as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed that Narendra Modi, his Indian counterpart, had sent him a message to greet him on the occasion.
Political reactions to Imran Khan’s claim
The Congress, meanwhile, demanded that Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party issue a public clarification about Khan’s claim that the prime minister had greeted him. “What is not surprising is the hypocrisy of this government which shamelessly politicises national security,” Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted .
Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu also criticised Modi and the BJP on Twitter and claimed that the BJP had double standards on Pakistan. “When you do it [wish Pakistan] it is okay, but when someone else does it they are wrong,” Sidhu tweeted in Hindi. Sidhu has appeared positive about India-Pakistan relations since Khan became prime minister last year, and visited Islamabad for his swearing-in ceremony.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also criticised the Centre on the matter. “If only the spooks and other interested players stopping people from attending the Pakistan National Day event had also stopped Prime Minister Narendra Modi from sending his greeting to PM Khan we would not look so damn confused about our relations with Pakistan, Abdullah said.
Abdullah downplayed reports quoting unidentified Indian officials that the message sent from Modi’s office was unsigned and was a customary practice to heads of state. “But then if he’s [Modi] only following custom it is also custom to send a minister and it is NOT custom to plant spooks and pliant journalists to bully invited guests to not attend,” Abdullah tweeted. “Cannot pick and choose which customs we like and which we don’t.”