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Envoys visit J&K amid cheers, protests

Envoys visit the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar on February 17, 2021.   | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

The J&K government showcased “deepening democracy” to visiting 24 foreign diplomats, who arrived on a two-day tour of the Union Territory (UT) on Wednesday amid a spontaneous shutdown in Srinagar and alleged detention of recently elected National Conference (NC) district council members in Budgam.

Welcomed by women singing traditional Kashmiri songs and showering petals on them, the team of diplomats from different continents, headed by European Union (EU) Ambassador Ugo Astuto, started the tour by attending a “Block Divas” function at a college at Magam in in Budgam.

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The diplomats were apprised by District Development Council (DDC) chairman Nazir Ahmad Khan of “the positive measures” taken by the Centre post August 5, 2019, when the Centre ended the special constitutional position of J&K. “J&K has seen many remarkable positive steps after August 2019. The significant step is putting in place a three-tier system by conducting the DDC polls. J&K is witnessing strengthening of democracy,” Mr. Khan said.

Nazir Ahmad Jahra, NC leader and DDC vice-chairperson from Budgam, however, alleged that six elected DDC members of the party were detained on the occasion. “Two were not allowed to move outside their homes. We have been locked up for the last three days,” Mr. Jahra said.

During this visit, the main focus of the envoys, who are coming to J&K for the fourth time in the past 18 months, was to hear from the elected representatives of the urban local bodies, block development councils and DDC heads in Srinagar.

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Elected DDC chairpersons associated with the NC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Peoples Conference (PC) also interacted with the envoys. No invitation was extended to any senior party leaders such as Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti or Sajad Lone.

Meanwhile, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who addressed a rally in Handwara, said, “Instead of meeting selected groups, the envoys should meet the common people.”

The Hurriyat, headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, urged the visiting 24 foreign diplomats to “push for a dialogue” on the Kashmir issue.

A spontaneous shutdown was observed in Srinagar.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 5:42:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/european-union-envoys-arrive-in-srinagar-to-assess-jk-situation/article33857627.ece

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