The delegation of around two dozen European lawmakers, including far-right deputies from Poland, France, Germany and Britain, met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the city of Srinagar in the Kashmir region of Jammu, which is under the control of India, people are protesting the European MPs visit to Kashmir. Lawmakers are discussing the Indian government's annulment of Article 370, which provides Kashmir with special status.
In the city of Srinagar in the Kashmir region of Jammu, which is under the control of India, people are protesting the European MPs visit to Kashmir. Lawmakers are discussing the Indian government's annulment of Article 370, which provides Kashmir with special status. (AA)

At least five people were killed by suspected militants in India-administered Kashmir on Tuesday, police said, as a group of European Union lawmakers began the first visit by a foreign delegation to the disputed region since New Delhi revoked its autonomy in August.

In the single bloodiest incident in recent months, two police officials said the five men - all construction workers from West Bengal state in eastern India - were shot dead in the Kulgam district.
One person was injured.

"Five-bullet ridden bodies were discovered from the room where these labourers were staying," one of the two police officials said. Both officials declined to be named since they are not authorised to speak to the media.

The latest killings followed a day of stone-throwing protests across parts of India-administered Kashmir after a weeks-long lull, triggered by the arrival of the EU lawmakers.

Residents voiced anger that the federal government was trying to show the delegation Kashmir was returning to normal, even as most mobile phone and Internet connections remain severed and daily life disrupted by a security clamp-down.

Two officials, one from the government and the other from the police and both declining to be named, said demonstrations began anew in around 40 different locations in the Himalayan territory, including the main city of Srinagar.

The demonstration in Srinagar started hours before the EU delegation's arrival and continued through the day. The security forces fired tear gas, the police official and Reuters witnesses said.

At least eight protesters were treated at Srinagar's main SMHS hospital for injuries.

Protesters also pelted security forces with stones in at least six other towns, the police official said.

India and Pakistan each claim the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989.

Most Kashmiris support the rebels' demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

About 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian crackdown.

In early August, India’s Hindu nationalist  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government scrapped a decades-old clause that provided Kashmiris with a level of ostensible autonomy, and protected the demographic make-up of the majority-Muslim Himalayan state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the EU lawmakers on Monday and said their visit would give them a clear view of the development priorities of Kashmir, his office said.

But opposition parties were angry that the EU lawmakers were being allowed into a region from which most Indian politicians have been barred since August 5, when New Delhi revoked Kashmir's special status and stifled dissent.

"MPs (members of parliament) from Europe are welcome to go on a guided tour of Jammu and Kashmir while Indian MPs are banned and denied entry," Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet. "There is something very wrong with that."

Indian security officials turned back several opposition politicians from Srinagar airport over the last several weeks, saying the situation was not stable enough for such visits.

New Delhi says its revocation of Kashmir's special status is essential to integrating India's only Muslim-majority territory into the rest of India and spur development there.

'Holding us at gunpoint'

The EU delegation - some of them from far-right parties - was driven in a cavalcade of black SUVs, accompanied by armed troops and security jeeps, to a military cantonment in Srinagar. This was to be followed by meetings with civil society members and businessmen, two government officials told Reuters.

"The government is trying to fool them. If they want to know the ground reality, they should meet the common people," said Srinagar resident Altaf Ahmed, standing near the site of a protest in the city's old quarter.

"We want to tell them that the government of India is holding us at gunpoint."

At dusk, the EU lawmakers made their way to Srinagar's picturesque Dal Lake for boat rides on the mirror-calm waters, while security men swarmed the popular tourist site.

UN concern 

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since 1947, and on August 5 New Delhi revoked the special status of the part of the region that it administers.

Since then New Delhi has barred scores of its own politicians and a US senator from visiting the Himalayan region. Visits by foreign journalists are also off limits.

Sending in tens of thousands of extra troops, hundreds of local politicians, lawyers and others were rounded up, most of whom still remain in detention.

Access to postpaid mobile phones was only restored on October 14 and the internet remains cut for the Muslim-majority area's more than seven million people.

The UN High Commission for Human Rights said on Tuesday that it was "extremely concerned" at the situation.

"We urge the Indian authorities to unlock the situation and fully restore the rights that are currently being denied," it said.

Amid allegations of torture and unconfirmed reports of at least six dead civilians, it said major political decisions about the region had been taken without the "participation of the affected population."

However, the UN also said it had received reports of armed groups threatening residents.

India accuses Pakistan of backing militants who have been waging a decades-old insurgency against Indian rule that has killed tens of thousands, mostly civilians. Pakistan denies the allegations and says it only provides moral support for the Kashmiri's right to self-determination under the framework of UN policies.

Source: AFP