The G20 delegates wrapped up their three-day tour of Srinagar with a visit to some scenic spots in the city on Wednesday, hours after American academic Noam Chomsky questioned the conscience of the grouping for holding such a meeting in “brutalised” Kashmir.
The G20 meeting had started on a controversial note on Monday after three member countries — China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — and guest country Egypt boycotted the event. It was the first major international event in Kashmir after the 2019 scrapping of its special status.
In a video released on Tuesday night, Chomsky said it was “unconscionable for the G20 to hold any kind of a meeting, let alone a tourism meeting” in Kashmir.
“Kashmir was one of the many victims (of the legacy of Partition), its travails took even harsher forms in later years, most recently in 2019, with India’s total demolition of the legal agreement under which Jammu and Kashmir joined India in 1947,” he added. “(It is) probably the most highly militarised region on earth, with the population subjected to imprisonment, torture, disappearance, deprived of even the most elementary rights,” Chomsky said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said press freedom remains under attack in Kashmir even as India tries to project normality.
“CPJ calls on the Indian government to end its brutal crackdown on the media and immediately release the four arbitrarily detained Kashmiri journalists,” the group said in a statement shared on Twitter on Monday. The journalists it wants freed are Asif Sultan, Fahad Shah, Sajad Gul and Irfan Mehraj.
When lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha was on Tuesday asked about the alleged crackdown on journalists, he said the media enjoyed “absolute freedom in Jammu and Kashmir”. He said only three journalists had been arrested in Jammu and Kashmir and anti-terror agencies were probing the cases. On Wednesday, around 60 G20 delegates from 17 countries visited the Mughal gardens, Dal Lake, Royal Springs Golf Course and the newly renovated Polo View market at the city centre.
The trip was confined to Srinagar after Gulmarg, 55km from the city, and Dachigam on the city’s outskirts were dropped from their itinerary purportedly for security reasons. The delegates started the day with a yoga session against the backdrop of the Zabarwan hills.
“The delegates of 3rd G20 TWG (third working group) enjoyed the pleasant morning, playing golf in the scenic Royal Spring Golf Course, one of the most scenic golf courses in the world nestled in the foothills of the magnificent Zabarwan range, overlooking the Dal Lake,” the central tourism ministry said in a tweet. The visitors wore traditional Kashmiri attire to click pictures. Many locals, however, had a tough time as they braved tortuous traffic jams to facilitate the travel of the visitors. Unprecedented security was in place to prevent any militant attack.