Stone pelting, hartal mar EU lawmakers Kashmir visit

SRINAGAR: Centre’s `Mission Kashmir 2.0’ suffered a setback when Kashmir gave a thumbs-down to the visit of the European Union (EU) parliamentarians by observing a complete protest shutdown on Tuesday.

Over 27 EU Parliamentarians, most of them from far-right groups arrived in Srinagar on Tuesday for on-the-spot assessment of the situation in Kashmir. During their visit, the delegation is scheduled to meet delegations, receive a briefing from officials and met top army and security forces officials.

It is for the first time since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5 that any foreign delegation has been allowed to visit Kashmir.

The visit was marred by instant shutdown observed by people in Kashmir. All the markets remained closed even during three hours relaxation period. For the last 85 days, shops open for three hours every morning to allow people to buy essentials.

Even the roadside vendors did not open their stalls on Tuesday. Some movement of people was witnessed on the roads because of the matriculation examination that started today.

Violence rocked Kashmir when a youth raised pro Azadi slogans and pelted stones on the security forces. Forces used lathi-charge, lobbed smoke shells and fired pellet guns to disperse the protestors. Four people were injured in clashes.

“To justify the harebrained disruptive decision, India’s democratic credentials are being sullied internationally. Reports of stone-pelting and massive shutdown in Srinagar today. Wandering what outcome government of India expected by sending a group of mostly right-leaning Islamaphobic EU MPs to Kashmir. Were you expecting nine million oppressed Kashmiris to lay out a red carpet for them?” tweeted Iltija Mufti, daughter of incarcerated former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, from her mother’s twitter handle.

National Conference said it is “ironical that these EU lawmakers are visiting the valley when the State’s leaders, including the former Chief Ministers, are incarcerated for nearly three months now, and hundreds of others are in jail across the country.”

“What the people of Kashmir think of the MPs visit is very clear from an intensified shutdown in the valley today,” NC spokesperson said in the statement.

The visit of EU delegation comes at a time when Kashmir shutdown has completed 85 days. Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) have pegged business losses at Rs 10,000 crore. Around one lakh people, mostly in the tourism and IT sector, have lost jobs due to the shutdown. Though the government had reopened schools, students have preferred to stay home.

Thousands of people including three former chief ministers –Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti –have been detained in Kashmir. The Internet has been shut for the last 84 days. Though postpaid mobiles and landlines are operational, prepaid phones continue to remain suspended.

Ishfaq Ul Hassan

An accredited journalist with 22 years of professional experience, Ishfaq-Ul-Hassan has worked as a reporter based in Kashmir for two decades. He has covered various beats including militancy, politics, defence, minorities, social issues, religious groups and women issues in Kashmir. He had previously worked as Special Correspondent in Jammu and Kashmir for DNA (Daily News and Analysis) Newspaper for 13 years. Ishfaq is also associated with the New Delhi- based television company `Asia Pacific Communication Associates’ which produced the famous series “Subah-Bakhar-Kashmir” for satellite Kashmir channel of Doordarshan. In 2004, he was awarded the Charkha-Sanjoy Ghosh Fellowship for Peace and Development for his research on families divided across the LOC in Kashmir.

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