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Saturday 4 April 2020

Debbie Abrahams: British MP who was sent back from Delhi airport

British Labour MP Debbie Abrahams takes such a stand on Kashmir that suits Pakistan and on the Middle East conflict that suits Palestine

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In India

A British MP, who has been critical of India’s move to withdraw special status Article 370 of Jammu and Kashmir, claimed on Monday that he was not allowed to enter India despite having a valid visa after landing at the Delhi airport. And she was sent to Dubai from where she had gone to Delhi. But the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) denied Labour Party MP Debbie Abrahams’ claim. It said that she had been informed that her e-visa had been cancelled.

Abrahams, president of the pro-Muslim All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir, said she was travelling on a valid e-visa to meet her family and friends but her visa was cancelled without the MHA giving her any reason.

A home ministry spokesperson said in Delhi that the British MP was properly informed that her visa had been cancelled and that she had arrived in Delhi despite being aware of it. When contacted, Abrahams said that she had not received any mail before 13 February. She said since then, she had been travelling and that she had been away from her office.

Her office in Britain confirmed that she boarded a Dubai-bound flight from where she arrived in Delhi on Monday.

Abrahams’ e-visa had bee issued in October. It was valid until October 2020.

Recalling her experience at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, she tweeted that she had arrived here on Monday morning but was told that her e-visa had been cancelled. The British MP said that she had appeared before the immigration desk with her documents and e-visa.

She said that the officer looked at his screen and started shaking his head. He reportedly told her that her visa had been cancelled. She said he took her passport and disappeared for about 10 min. “I tried to establish why the visa had been revoked and if I could get a ‘visa on arrival’ but no one seemed to know,” she said in the statement.

“Even the person who seemed to be in charge said he didn’t know and was really sorry about what had happened. So now I am just waiting to be deported … unless the Indian Government has a change of heart. I’m prepared to let the fact that I’ve been treated like a criminal go, and I hope they will let me visit my family and friends,” the British MP said.

“When he came back he was very rude and aggressive, shouting at me to ‘come with me’. I told him not to speak to me like that and was then taken to a cordoned-off area marked as a deportee cell. He then ordered me to sit down and I refused. I didn’t know what they might do or where else they may take me, so I wanted people to see me,” Abrahams said.

The British MP said the immigration officer then disappeared. She then called a relative whom she was going to stay with.

The British MP said that several immigration officials later met her but none of them knew why the visa had been revoked. She said, “Even the person in charge of this desk said that he did not know and he was sorry for what had happened.”

MP Shashi Tharoor of the INC questioned if the government claimed that the situation in Kashmir was normal, why it is scared of critics.

He tweeted, “If things are fine in #Kashmir, shouldn’t the Govt encourage critics to witness the situation themselves to put their fears to rest? Instead of conducting tours for pliant MEPs &polite Ambassadors alone, surely the head of a ParliamentaryGroup on the subject is worth cultivating?”

British Labour Party MP Debbie Abrahams

Abrahams is one of the MPs who had issued formal letters in August last year after the withdrawal of the special state status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. The Opposition MP wrote a letter to the then UK Foreign Minister Domnik Raab, saying, “We are gravely concerned at the announcement by Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, has been removed by Presidential Order.”

Abrahams final destination in this tour is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir where she is supposed to go with a delegation. The stopover in India was only to meet with her relatives in Delhi. Abrahams would stay overnight in Dubai before flying to Islamabad on Tuesday. She claimed she would not let her experience in Delhi affect her plans for Pakistan.

The British MP is a pro-Muslim voice in the United Kingdom. Sir Gerald Kaufman of the Labour Party had sought votes for her, saying, “When you vote for Debbie… you will be voting for the people of Palestine and the people of Kashmir…”

Abrahams’ APPG tends to take such a stance on Kashmir that resonates the Pakistani point of view. But that is not the only controversy she has ever been a part of. The Guardian and BBC News reports say she was suspended from her position as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary in March 2018 and the Labour Party investigated her over a “workplace issue”. She was alleged to have bullied staff. She vehemently denied the claims, claiming it was she who was a victim of a “bullying culture of the worst kind”.

Two years ago in May, the British MP was removed from the Shadow Cabinet.

The Sunday Guardian reported that the purpose of the British MP is purpose is “to support the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people through dialogue; to seek support from British parliamentarians; to highlight the abuses of human rights in Kashmir, and to seek justice for the people there”.

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