India’s Ministry of External Affairs has denied permission to an opposition parliamentarian to travel to Pakistan where he was to participate in a conference to remember human rights legend Asma Jahangir, The Hindu said on Tuesday.

“I wanted to participate in the meet out of respect for Asma Jahangir who all her life fought for the rights of minorities in Pakistan,” Rashtriya Janata Dal’s MP Manoj K. Jha told the paper.

The party was founded by firebrand leader Lalu Prsad Yadav, a steadfast critic of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Hindu said the MEA on Monday denied political clearance to Mr Jha to visit Pakistan for delivering a lecture on “role of political parties in upholding democratic rights” at the 4th Asma Jahangir Conference scheduled for Oct 22 and 23.

Mr Jha had received a joint invitation from the Asma Jahangir Foundation, AGHS Legal Aid Cell, Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. The late Asma Jahangir was a well-known figure who fought for human rights in Pakistan.

Indian MPs are required to seek political clearance from the MEA and clearance under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 to accept foreign hospitality from the Ministry of Home Affairs. The MEA sent a one-line reply: “Ministry of External Affairs has examined the proposal. Clearance from political angle is declined.”

Mr Jha expressed his disappointment thus: “It is deeply unfortunate that I was denied permission. I wanted to participate in the seminar out of respect for Asma Jahangir who all her life fought for the minorities’ rights in Pakistan,” Mr Jha told The Hindu.

The invitation extended by the foundation to Mr Jha said the seminar seeks to discuss strengthening democratic institutions, freedom of expression and right to dissent. It was also going to deliberate on the role of the judiciary in protecting the Constitution, strengthening democracy and fundamental rights of all citizens and freedom of religion and belief in the context of shrinking tolerance for diversity.

Rights activists from both sides have been compelled to use the internet to hold joint conferences on bilateral peace and democracy. It was not clear if the organisers were planning to involve Mr Jha in an online discussion.


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