London: Chris Davies, member of the European parliament (MEP) from the UK, on Tuesday said that he had received an invitation to travel to Jammu and Kashmir but claimed that the offer was withdrawn after he insisted on moving in the Valley “unaccompanied by military, police or security forces”.
Davies, who is an MEP from Liberal Democrats party, said he was invited by an organisation called WESTT (Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank) on October 7. The invite was withdrawn three days later, the member of European parliament said, after he insisted on being able to move around freely.
“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”.
An Indian government official refused to comment on the MP’s claims, insisting that the government wasn’t involved in planning or organising this visit.
A chain of e-mail communications accessed by HT showed that Madi Sharma, an entrepreneur and chief of WESTT, approached Davies on October 7 to join a delegation for a three-day visit to India and the Valley. The email mentions that the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies will pay for the trip and that Davies’ participation would be as a guest and not in his official capacity as MEP.
Davies replied the next day, insisting on a written guarantee that he would be allowed to move freely, unaccompanied by security forces. In her response the same day, she said the purpose of the visit was to “meet with the Prime Minister and also on the visit to Kashmir meet and speak to people freely”. She added that some security would be necessary but that she was sure it “will not hinder your (Davies’) work”.
She also asked for a meeting, which was fixed for October 10 by the MEP’s office. But on October 10 in an email addressed to Davies and Irina Von Wiese, another MEP from the Liberal Democrats party, Sharma cancelled the meeting. “I apologise that I cannot take any more MEPs at this stage,” she said, adding that she would arrange a meeting in the future after her return from India.
Sharma was unavailable for comment over phone.
Several MEPs including Davies’ party colleague, Bill Newton Dunn are currently in India visiting Jammu and Kashmir. No MEP from the Conservative or Labour parties is in the delegation; most of the British MEPs are from the Brexit party.
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 in August to prevent what they described as an “unconstitutional attack on Kashmir’s autonomy”.