Centre takes 15 envoys to Kashmir

Valley sees no protest this time, unlike October visit by European team

Centre takes 15 envoys to Kashmir

US envoy to India Kenneth I Juster and other diplomats meet civil society members during their visit to Srinagar on Thursday. pti

Samaan Lateef & Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 9

As the BJP government at the Centre has set the political process rolling in Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370, a high-profile delegation of envoys from various countries on Thursday arrived on a two-day visit to J&K and held talks with local politicians and security officials to assess the ground situation.

Baig: Mehbooba behind downgrading of J&K

The crisis within the PDP deepened when party patron and ex-Dy CM MH Baig said party chief Mehbooba Mufti’s “provocative” statement on Article 370 “resulted in downgrading J&K from a state into UT”. In 2017, Mufti had warned “no one in Kashmir would hold the Tricolour if Article 370 was tampered with.”

The 15-member delegation arrived here at 11.15 am and drove past busy roads amid normal public movement from Srinagar Airport.

Unlike the delegation of European parliamentarians, who visited Kashmir in October and evoked intense protests and complete shutdown, the visiting delegation was received with open shops and normal public movement.

Envoys took feedback on interference of Pakistan in the affairs of Kashmir, and political and security situation after New Delhi on August 5 abrogated Article 370 and its corollary Article 35-A, which provided special constitutional guarantees to people of J&K within the Union of India.

The delegation comprised envoys from United States, Norway, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Maldives, Morocco, Argentina, Niger, Nigeria, Guyana, Fiji, and Bangladesh. They started their day by interacting with senior officers of Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps and later met nearly 160 people including politicians, youth leaders, and media persons at a private hotel overlooking Dal Lake in Srinagar. The envoys held an hour-long meeting with senior politician (expelled PDP leader) Altaf Bukhari-led delegation of seven PDP former MLAs and two Congress leaders to discuss the situation in Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh.

“How do you feel after India suspended the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir? Do you have fears that rights of people on land and jobs are under threat,” one of the envoys asked the Bukhari-led delegation.

The former MLAs told the envoys that people in Kashmir were upset over New Delhi’s August 5 decision.

“We told them (envoys) people have been hurt by the abrogation of Article 370. We apprised them about the present situation in Kashmir, Internet blockade, and sought the release of people who have been put behind bars,” said former MLA Shoib Nabi Lone, who was part of the Bukhari delegation.

The delegation of former MLAs had on Tuesday met LG G C Murmu and sought restoration of statehood and protection of land and jobs for local people.

The envoys also met a group of youth leaders led by Mir Junaid, who criticised the BJP government for negotiating with former MLAs for initiating a political process in Kashmir.

He said New Delhi should invest in “honest leadership of youth instead of existing-forever politicians, who are responsible for the mess in Kashmir”.

Envoys also met local mediapersons, including Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo (editor of Greater Kashmir), Bashir Manzar (editor of Kashmir Image), Ayaz Hafiz (editor of Rising Kashmir), Farooq Ahmad Wani (editor of Brighter Kashmir), and Rasheed Rahil (editor of Asian Mail).

“I apprised the visiting delegation of the ground realities of Kashmir. They listened to me patiently and were all ears,” Hyderi told The Tribune.

According to a senior journalist, who met the delegation, the envoys enquired about the difficulties faced by the media in the absence of Internet.

The visiting delegation of foreign delegates in the later afternoon flied to Jammu, where they will be taking feedback on the ground situation from politicians and civil society members on Friday.

PDP expels 8 leaders who met delegation

Hours after Peoples Democratic Party’s former legislators met the foreign delegates, the party cracked the whip and expelled eight party leaders. The expelled leaders included PDP general secretary and seven former legislators

Purpose of visit not known: Congress

“The Congress was not invited. Besides, the purpose of this visit is not known. The Congress has taken note of its district president meeting the envoys…we will issue a show-cause notice to him,” said GA Mir, Congress state president

Visit a guided tour: National Conference

The NC dubbed the visit of foreign delegates a “guided tour to endorse the Centre’s claims of normalcy”. “In a repeat of October EU team’s visit, the envoys have been brought here on a guided tour, where access has been limited to handpicked individuals,” it said INSIDE

Daylong interaction

  • Envoys interacted with senior officers at Srinagar-based 15 Corps
  • Later, they met nearly 160 people, including politicians, youth leaders and mediapersons, at a hotel overlooking the Dal Lake

US envoy among them

The delegation comprised United States Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster and envoys from Norway | South Korea | Vietnam | Philippines, Maldives | Morocco | Argentina | Niger | Nigeria, Guyana | Fiji | Bangladesh


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