With no doubt, opening Kashmir for delegation from outside Jammu and Kashmir to visit state and assess the situation for themselves is an important step for democracy and transparency. But if the government would do that ensuring without the selective nature of pick and choose, it could serve the purpose far better. Otherwise the exercise becomes suspect, cosmetic and aimed at optics that can be counter-productive.
Though it is a good walk to unlock the situation and restore the normalcy in the state but the visit of a delegation of lawmakers for European Union must be weighed in the light that Indian lawmakers were restrained from the same purpose. The political leanings of the group of 27 lawmakers from different parts of Europe are different. What is much noteworthy in this fray is intriguing manner in which this delegation was give permission while Indians were not within last three months.
Since the Modi-led government revoked J&K’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcated the state into three union territories, many delegations of politicians tried to visit the state to see the ground reality of J&K but never succeeded. On August 24, a delegation of nine opposition parties led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited J&K to meet the people and party leaders in the region where restrictions have been imposed. However, the delegation was not allowed to step out of Srinagar airport and was sent back. Parties that were part of the delegation included Congress, CPI-M, CPI, RJD, NCP, TMC, and DMK. In this backdrop if the oppositions are lashing out the government’s decision is not wrong.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the delegation and while welcoming them, he expressed the hope that they have a fruitful visit to various parts of the country including Jammu and Kashmir. PMO statement said, “Their visit to J&K should give the delegation a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region of J&K and Ladakh, a part from giving them a clear view of the development and government priorities of the region.”
But the main question that lingers over the heads of many including oppositions is, did the government allow EU MPs to interact with locals of J&K and valley to better know the ground reality? Were they permitted to meet the common people who could tell them how they are living there in the state?
The delegation including two government officials reportedly was driven in cavalcade of blacks, accompanied by armed troops and security jeeps. Though it is not an individual’s case that this delegation should be stopped from visiting as some media outlets are suggesting but what is more important is that the delegation must have freedom to move around the state.
This shift of the government would be meaningful only if all the deletions from across the country and the world wishing to visit Kashmir to take a stock of the situation of Kashmir are allowed entry into state without any selective basis of pick and choose. There is no justification now for stopping all other Indian or foreign delegations including media team foreign press.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)