Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat MP of the European parliament, has claimed that he was barred from visiting Kashmir after he asked to be allowed to move around freely and speak to local people. "What is it that the Indian government has to hide," the MP questioned in a statement on Tuesday.
Chris Davies is a Lib Dem member for the North West of England, Chair of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee. He claims he received an invite to visit Jammu and Kashmir on October 7, but it was withdrawn three days later.
"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," Mr Davies said.
He claimed that he had asked to be allowed to move around without security escort and speak to anyone, to make his own assessment about the situation after the government ended special status to Jammu and Kashmir and enforced major security restrictions and a communication lockdown to avoid any clashes or violence.
"What is it that the Indian government has to hide? Why will it not give journalists and visiting politicians free access to speak with local people," Mr Davies said.
He said he spoke on behalf of Kashmiris in England who were unable to contact their family and relatives. "I represent thousands of people in the North West of England who have family associations with Kashmir. They want to be able to speak freely to their relatives. They want their voices to be heard," said the European parliament lawmaker.
"I fear that this is not going to end well. Governments do not win the hearts and minds of people by taking away their freedoms and imposing military rule. The risk of a violent backlash is all too evident," he said.
The comments come in the backdrop of a visit by 23 European Union MPs to Jammu and Kashmir today. These MPs met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval yesterday.
This is the first such international visit to the state nearly two months after the government's clampdown.