India denies entry to UK Labour MP who chairs group on Kashmir

Debbie Abrahams hoped to visit family, but was rejected and said she was treated with hostility at the airport.

    Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, pictured with her husband John [File: Martin Rickett/AFP]
    Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, pictured with her husband John [File: Martin Rickett/AFP]

    Indian officials have denied entry to a British legislator who chairs a parliamentary group focused on the disputed region of Kashmir, after she landed at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport.

    Debbie Abrahams, a Labour MP who was visiting family, was unable to clear customs on Monday after her valid Indian visa was rejected.

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    Abrahams and Harpreet Upal, her aide, arrived at the airport in India on an Emirates flight from Dubai in the morning.

    After presenting her documents, an official "looked at his screen and started shaking his head", Abrahams said in a statement.

    The official then informed her the visa was rejected and left the desk for 10 minutes, she said.

    "When he came back, he was very rude and aggressive."

    She then called a relative, who contacted the British High Comission seeking support.

    "Just to be clear, I have Indian relatives who I was meant to be visiting with and have Indian members of staff accompanying me," Abhrahams later tweeted. "The reason I got into politics is advance social justice and human rights for all. I will continue to challenge my own government and others on these issues." 

    A spokesman for India's foreign ministry did not immediately comment.

    Kashmir crackdown

    Abrahams has been an MP since 2011 and is an outspoken critic of the Indian government's move last August, stripping Kashmir of its semi-autonomy and demoting it from a state to a federal territory.

    Shortly after the changes to Kashmir's status were passed by India's Parliament, Abrahams wrote a letter to India's High Commissioner to the UK, saying the action "betrays the trust of the people" of Kashmir.

    Access to the region remains tight, with no foreign journalists allowed.

    The Muslim-majority Himalayan region is claimed by India and archrival Pakistan and has been in turmoil since the crackdown.

    India said it has since eased those restrictions, and restored limited internet connectivity last month, ending one of the world's longest such shutdowns in a democracy.

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    Kashmir is heralding the restoration of limited, slow-speed internet as a step towards normalcy, but for the region's 7 million people, the reality is far different. They are only allowed to access government-approved websites.

    More than two dozen diplomats visited Indian-administered Kashmir last week, as India to reassure foreign allies following several months of unrest.

    The group included European diplomats, some of whom declined a previous invitation from New Delhi to visit the region.

    Representatives from several countries, including Germany's ambassador Walter Lindner, were pictured on a traditional wooden shikara boat on Dal Lake, in Kashmir's main city of Srinagar.

    Last month fifteen foreign envoys visited Kashmir - a trip participants characterised as tightly-choreographed with no room for independent meetings.

    A proposed vote in the European Union Parliament next month, which was delayed, could chastise India for its actions in Kashmir.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies