A day before a delegation of European Union MPs is scheduled to visit the Valley, terrorists injured 20 civilians by hurling a hand grenade into a crowd waiting at a bus stop near Hotel Plaza in Kashmir’s Sopore town on Monday. Hours later, a truck driver was shot dead by militants in Anantnag.
Of the 20 people injured in Sopore, six were seriously injured and were referred to a hospital in Srinagar. The others are undergoing treatment at a local hospital, officials said.
The terrorists were allegedly targetting security forces in the area.
Security forces have cordoned off the area and launched an operation to nab the attackers.
No arrests have been made so far, police said.
The truck driver who was shot dead by terrorists in Anantnag is the fourth truck driver to be killed by militants since August 5 when the Centre abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and split the state into two Union Territories.
The deceased, identified as Narayan Dutt, lived in Jammu’s Reasi and died on the spot, a police official said.
Dutt was fired upon by the militants in the evening in the Kanilwan area of Bijbehara in the south Kashmir district, the official said.
A senior police official, who was nearby, rushed to the spot and managed to save two other truck drivers who were in the vicinity, police said.
The area has been cordoned off and a hunt launched to nab the attackers, they said.
Dutt’s killing follows a series of attacks by militants on truck drivers and non-locals.
On October 24, terrorists killed two non-Kashmiri truck drivers in Shopian district when they had gone to ferry loads of apples.
On October 14, two terrorists, including a suspected Pakistani national, shot dead the driver of a truck having Rajasthan registration number and assaulted an orchard owner in Shopian district. The driver was identified as Sharief Khan.
Two days later, Punjab-based apple trader Charanjeet Singh was killed and Sanjeev injured when terrorists attacked them in Shopian district.
The same day, a brick kiln worker from Chhattisgarh was shot dead by militants in Pulwama district.
EU MPs visit to the Valley
In a first visit by any foreign delegation to Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, a group of 27 European lawmakers will travel there on Tuesday, a major diplomatic outreach initiative by the government to counter Pakistan’s narrative on the situation in the Valley by allowing these leaders to “see things for themselves”.
The delegation seeks to talk to locals and ask them about their experience after the Centre’s decisions.
The government has said the diplomatic outreach will allow EU leaders to “see things for themselves” in Kashmir and help it counter Pakistan’s narrative.
PM Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval briefed the delegation and also discussed the issue of Kashmir and the situation there after the abrogation of Article 370.
Kashmir has been under a communication lockdown ever since the government abrogated Article 370. While servises to post paid phones and landline services were resumed after over 70 days of abrogation, there are still a number of restrictions including Section 144 which are in place in the Valley.
The Congress questioned the government on Monday for allowing European Parliament members to visit Jammu and Kashmir but preventing Indian leaders from doing so, claiming it was an insult to India’s democracy and “ultimate disrespect” to its sovereignty.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said there was something very wrong with European MPs being given a guided tour of Jammu and Kashmir and Indian MPs denied entry there.
“MPs from Europe are welcome to go on a guided tour of Jammu & Kashmir while Indian MPs are banned and denied entry. There is something very wrong with that,” he said on Twitter.
Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the party would raise the issue in Parliament, adding India’s decision violates the collective privileges of its MPs. Inviting EU lawmakers to JK is the “ultimate disrespect” to Indian Parliament’s sovereignty, Sharma added.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said by allowing EU MPs to visit Kashmir and not allowing Indian MPs in the valley is an insult to India’s Parliament.
Why Rahul was not allowed to visit Kashmir: Mehbooba Mufti
PDP chief and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday voiced hope that the group of 27 European lawmakers, who are travelling to Jammu and Kashmir, will get a chance to meet local people and civil society members, but at the same time alleged that the delegates “seem like pro-fascist, right leaning and anti-immigrant”.
In a series of tweets, Mehbooba, who has been detained since August 5 and whose Twitter handle is operated by her daughter Iltija, claimed the visit is one of “incessant foreign policy gaffes” and will be a “lose lose situation” for the government.
She also slammed the government for not allowing opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi to visit the Kashmir Valley after the abrogation of the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories.
The PDP chief also wondered “why the same courtesy can’t be extended to American senators”.
Mehbooba asked why can’t the delegation meet all three former chief ministers — National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah are the other two chief ministers who are also under the detention.
The former chief minister claimed that in its “desperation” to convince international community that “normalcy” has restored in Kashmir, the central government is making “incessant foreign policy gaffes”.
Mehbooba asked if scrapping of the Article 370 integrated Jammu and Kashmir into India, why Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was barred from visiting Kashmir?
(With inputs from PTI)