India condemned as Labour MP denied entry, deported

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LONDON: The Indian government’s decision to deny entry to prominent politician and Labour MP Debbie Abrahamas caused outrage in the UK as politicians and media united to condemn the Indian regime for barring her entry just because she speaks in favour of oppressed people of Kashmir and has strongly condemned Modi for anti-Muslim citizenship laws.

Politicians called on the Indian government to explain the Labour MP from Oldham East and Saddleworth was denied entry to the country despite having a valid visa. The Guardian, the Times, BBC, Sky, The Independent, Mirror, The Independent and dozens of other media published news of the MP being barred and condemned the Indian government’s intolerance. Debbie Abrahams, who is Chair of the British Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir, was told her visa had been rejected when she arrived in Delhi. She was subsequently taken to a "deportee cell" and put on a plane to Dubai. Debbie Abrahams, speaking from Dubai, said the authorities there had taken her passport from her and demanded details of her social media accounts. "I'm not in a happy place at all," she said. The Labour MP said she was concerned about similarities to the case of Laleh Shahravesh, who was detained under controversial cybercrime laws for calling her ex-husband’s new wife a "horse" on Facebook. "I’m very anxious about that," the MP said. Foreign Office Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad spoke to the Indian High Commissioner in London about the situation. A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are in contact with the Indian authorities and Lord Ahmad has spoken with the Indian High Commissioner to understand why Deborah Abrahams, MP, was denied entry to India. We provided consular assistance to her whilst she was in New Delhi Airport."

Ms Abrahams said she had an e-visa valid until October 2020 but was "treated like a criminal" when she arrived in India. The Oldham East and Saddleworth MP said: "Then he told me my visa was rejected, took my passport and disappeared for about 10 minutes. 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 thatand was then taken to a cordoned off area marked as a deportee cell." The MP said she believed her treatment was due to her interest in the Indian occupied Kashmir situation where a curfew has been imposed for nearly half a year now after revoking Article 275, although she was visiting India to see members of her family.

She is due to fly to Pakistan later this week in connection with the parliamentary group's work. Abrahams arrived in Delhi with her aide Harpreet Uppal on an Emirates flight from Dubai at 9am on Monday. She has been an outspoken critic of the Indian government for stripping the occupied Kashmir of its status last August. Shortly after the changes to Kashmir’s status, Abrahams wrote a letter to India’s high commissioner to the UK, saying the action betrayed the trust of the people of Kashmir. Last August, Ms Abrahams wrote to the UK foreign secretary, saying the parliamentary group was "gravely concerned" about the decision to strip the disputed region of its special status, adding that it "betrayed the trust of the people of Jammu and Kashmir". The MP describes herself as being “passionate about tackling inequalities” in society. She was a member of the UK Parliament’s Work & Pensions Select Committee from June 2011 to March 2015, and was re-elected in July 2015. In September that year, she was appointed as Shadow Minister for Disabled People, and in June 2016 as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

According to the UK Parliament website, APPGs “cover a diverse range of subjects and are established for a rich variety of purposes”. While they are not official parliamentary bodies — and therefore different from Select Committees of Parliament — they “provide a valuable opportunity for parliamentarians to engage with individuals and organisations outside Parliament who share an interest in the subject matter of their Group”. The purpose of the Kashmir APPG 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,” the UK Parliament website says.

Abrahams has a professional background in health, and she is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health, the United Kingdom’s top professional body for public health specialists and practitioners. She has advised health ministries in countries cross the world, as well as agencies such as the World Health Organisation. According to the MP’s website, she is married to former cricketer John Abrahams, who was captain of Lancashire for a couple of years from 1984. His player profile on ESPNCricinfo describes Abrahams as a “good captain and popular captain”, who is a career of 252 first class matches scored 10,059 runs at an average of 29.76.

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