The team of foreign delegates visiting Jammu and Kashmir on a two-day tour visited a Kashmiri migrant camp at Jagati on the outskirts of Jammu on Friday, an official confirmed to Scroll.in. They met and interacted with Kashmiri Pandit migrants at the camp. About 20,000 people live at this camp.
Lieutenant Governor GC Murmu hosted a dinner for the delegates on Thursday night.
The diplomats met several Kashmiri political leaders, including Ghulam Hasan Mir, Altaf Bukhari, Shoaib Iqbal Lone, Hilal Ahmed Shah, Noor Mohammad Sheikh, Abdul Majid Padder, Abdul Rahim Rather and Rafi Ahmed Mir on Thursday. They also met with civil society leaders and businessmen in Kashmir.
The delegation of envoys were from 16 countries such as the United States, South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Maldives, Morocco, Fiji, Norway, Philippines, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Guyana. Delegates from the European Union are believed to have refused the invitation because they did not want a guided tour and would not be allowed to visit detained chief ministers.
The Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that the envoys are on a visit at the invitation of the government. It also refuted claims that the envoys were taken on a “guided tour”.
This is the second visit of foreign delegates to Jammu and Kashmir since the Centre abrogated the region’s special status and converted it into two Union Territories in August. In October, around two dozen members of parliament from the European Union were taken to Kashmir on a highly orchestrated tour. Before that the MPs met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The group of politicians were mostly from far-right nationalist parties. Questions were then raised about who organised the visit. In November, the Ministry of Home Affairs told Parliament that the delegation was on a “private visit” on the invitation of Delhi-based think-tank International Institute for Non-aligned Studies.
Opposition parties in India had repeatedly targeted the government for facilitating the European politicians’ trip to Kashmir. Many had wondered why they were given such easy access to the region when Indian MPs were facing obstructions while trying to enter Srinagar.
A member of the European Union delegation had then claimed that the group was conscious that “some people were being kept away from us”. Hermann Tertsch of Spain’s Vox Party said the delegation was trying to make sense of what was happening, but did not have enough facts to draw a conclusion.
According to reports, of the 27 MEPs who had arrived in India for the visit – of whom at least four did not visit Kashmir – only three were from Left or liberal parties. Chris Davies, an MP of the United Kingdom’s Liberal Democrats party, had claimed that he too was invited by the Indian government to visit Kashmir but the invitation was withdrawn after he insisted on being allowed to speak freely with local people. Another European MP had urged the Indian government to allow Indian MPs into Kashmir.