NEW DELHI: European Union MP Chris Davies on Tuesday claimed his invitation to visit Jammu and Kashmir was withdrawn by the Indian government after he insisted on being allowed to speak freely with locals without being accompanied by military, police or security forces.
According to media reports, Chris Davies, who is a member of the European Parliament, said the invitation sent on October 7 was withdrawn three days later without any reason.
Davies was invited by a Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT)to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 28 and then continue his journey to Kashmir ending with a press conference on the October 30 but was uninvited the day after the invitation was extended.
The Indian government on Monday allowed a delegation of European Parliament members from Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Poland to travel to Srinagar to assess the situation there.
This is the first for an international delegation since New Delhi scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, and imposed prohibitory orders.
The delegation largely comprises leaders from right-wing parties. Four of the members belong to the UK’s Brexit Party.
An Indian government official refused to comment on the issue, insisting that the government wasn’t involved in planning or organising this visit.
WESTT, the organisation which had organised the visit, has not responded to a request for comment yet.
Several MEPs including Davies’ party colleague, Bill Newton Dunn are currently in India visiting Jammu and Kashmir.
“I was happy to accept on the condition that during my time in Kashmir I would be free to go wherever I wish and talk to whoever I wish, unaccompanied by military, police or security forces but accompanied by journalists,” he said in a statement.
“I am not prepared to take part in a PR stunt for the Modi government and pretend that all is well. It is very clear that democratic principles are being subverted in Kashmir, and the world needs to start taking notice”.
Davies said he represented many people in his north-west England constituency who have family links in Jammu and Kashmir, who wanted to speak freely to relatives and wanted their voices heard.
Davies has been a vocal critic of India’s decision to revoke Article 370 and was among the 45 members of parliament from the United Kingdom and peers who asked the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in August to prevent what they described as an “unconstitutional attack on Kashmir’s autonomy”.