Envoys in Jammu meet civil society members, get briefed by CS, DGP

In the first such trip by foreign diplomats post August 5, envoys of 15 countries including the US on Friday interacted with civil society members and were briefed by a high level team led by Chief Secretary BVR Subramanian and DGP Dilbag Singh.

Agencies
The Chief Secretary and the DGP gave an overview of the security setup post abrogation of Article 370 and answered questions posed by the envoys
JAMMU: In the first such trip by foreign diplomats post August 5, envoys of 15 countries including the US on Friday interacted with civil society members and were briefed by a high level team led by Chief Secretary BVR Subramanian and DGP Dilbag Singh.

Most delegates from civil society told the envoys that they supported the abrogation of Article 370.

The team arrived in the Kashmir valley on Thursday where they interacted with select political representatives, civil society members as well as military top brass even as the government rejected criticism that it a "guided tour".


US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster was among the Delhi-based envoys who spent around seven hours in Srinagar.

Last October, some members of the European Parliament had visited Srinagar but envoys had so far not been allowed to visit the valley.

The official team led by Chief Secretary and DGP arrived this morning and briefed the team on various aspects of the security situation post abrogation of Article 370 and carving out of two UTs, officials said.
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The Chief Secretary and the DGP gave an overview of the security setup post abrogation of Article 370 and answered questions posed by the envoys on various issues including arrests, internet ban and law and order situation.

They briefed the envoys about 'zero causality' during the period, which they said was exemplary on the part of the police and security forces while dealing with the situation.

Financial commissioner, Health Atul Dulloo briefed the team about the health facilities created by the government to ensure people and patients do not face any problems and also gave an overview of the sector.

It was followed by the meeting with various delegations including West Pakistan refugees, J&K Gujjar United Front, PoK Refugees, Valmiki Samaj, lawyers and others, they said.
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Answering questions posed by the envoys, most of these delegations welcomed the abrogation of Article 370 and termed it beneficial for their communities.

"We told them (envoys) that abrogation of Article 370 has been welcomed by Gujjars. It has facilitated reservation in the community and rights on the forests, which were denied to us for the past 7 decades," J&K Gujjar United Forum Chairman Gulam Nabi Khatana told reporters here.
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We have given the envoys the correct picture that Kashmir-centric parties have always kept their interest at the forefront but denied others their rights, he said.

Advocate Asif Choudhary from Rajouri district, who met the envoys, said Article 370 was not beneficial to them and its scraping has opened new doors of development and progress for their community.

The Chairman of West Pakistan Refugees Organisation, Labha Ram Gandhi told the envoys that "scrapping of Article 370 was delayed justice to them."

"The scrapping of Article 370 was a step towards justice to the community. For the past 7 decades, we were unwanted citizens of J&K as Kashmir centric government did not grant us the right to vote, right to jobs, right to education and right to land.

"Now we are proud citizens of Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370. It was discriminatory to deny us the right to live in J&K," he said.

PoK refugees leader Narinder Singh told the envoys that they welcomed the abrogation of article 370.

The President of Jammu Bar Association (JBA) Abhinav Sharma was questioned by an envoy as to why a demand of abrogation of Article 370 was not raised?

"We told them such a demand was raised long time ago but the Kashmir-centric rulers did not allow it to be raised and it was continuously suppressed," he said.

The team is currently on visit to the biggest Kashmiri migrant camp at Jagati on the outskirts of Jammu city where they will interact with migrants.

The envoys flew to Jammu, the winter capital of the newly carved out union territory, last evening. Lt Governor G C Murmu hosted a dinner and interacted with them.

Earlier, they were flown in a chartered aircraft which landed at the technical airport here. They were taken directly to the army cantonment for a briefing by top military brass, officials said.

This time there was no hartal call and shops and business establishments were functioning and civilian traffic was seen on the roads unlike the October visit of the delegation of Members of European Parliament, which was organised by a private NGO.

The delegation, accompanied by Secretary (West) of the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup, was briefed by a team of top army officers led by Lt Gen K J S Dhillon, who heads the strategically-located XV corps in Kashmir, they said.

The envoys, who are here as part of the government's diplomatic outreach to rebut Pakistan's propaganda on the Kashmir issue, would also be a part of a reception hosted by Lt Governor G C Murmu in the evening at Jammu.

Besides the US, the delegation includes diplomats from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Norway, Maldives, South Korea, Morocco, and Nigeria. They would return to Delhi on Friday.

Brazil and Uzbekistan's envoys Andre Aranha Correa do Lago and Farhod Arziev were also scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir. However, they backed out because of their preoccupation here.

This is the second visit of a foreign delegation to Jammu and Kashmir since August 5. Earlier, Delhi-based think tank, International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, took 23 EU MPs on a two-day visit to assess the situation in the union territory.
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