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Five Things You Need to Know About UK MP Debbie Abrahams

Abrahams was denied entry into India on Monday. She has been critical of the Modi government’s Kashmir policy.

New Delhi: UK Labour Party member of parliament Debbie Abrahams has been making headlines after the India refused to allow her entry into the country. But who is she, and what has she said that could have angered the Indian authorities?

The Wire takes a brief look at her views and career.

1. Why is she in the news?

On Monday, Abrahams was denied entry into India at the Delhi airport by immigration officials, who said her visa had been cancelled. Abrahams and her aide Harpreet Upal had reached Delhi from Dubai. Abrahams had visa which was valid until October 2020.

While Indian officials have said Abrahams did not have a valid visa and was told so over email before her trip, she has denied this. She was visiting Delhi for largely personal reasons, she said.

Also read: People With Disabilities Are Being Detained Under PSA in Kashmir

2. What has she said about Article 370?

Speculation is rife that Abrahams has not been allowed into India because of her criticism of the Narendra Modi government’s policies in Kashmir. She is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir in the British parliament, and has been critical of the Modi government’s move to remove Article 370.

APPGs are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within the British parliament. “They are essentially run by and for members of the Commons and Lords, though many choose to involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities,” describes the official website of the United Kingdom parliament.

The purpose of the Kashmir APPG, as mentioned in the all-party groups register, 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.”

On August 5, 2019, Abrahams had written to India’s High Commissioner to the UK expressing grave concerns over removal of Article 370. She also wrote to the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, asking him “what action he is taking in light of India’s threat to remove Article 370 from their constitution”.

She even issued a letter to United Nations Secretary General on the legality of India’s action under UN Security Council resolution 47.

3. What has she said about Kashmir before?

Even before Article 370 was read down, Abrahams had been taking an interest in what is happening in Kashmir and had made several public comments about it. In January 2015, for instance, she had asked the foreign office minister if he would be bringing up “tensions on either side of the Jammu-Kashmir line of control and the human rights violations that have been consistently reported” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2013 too she had raised the Kashmir issue in the UK parliament, saying, “I believe that for too long Kashmir has been ignored by the wider international community and we need fresh impetus to finding a resolution that is acceptable to all parties, especially the people of Kashmir.”

Also read: After Erdogan Supports Pakistan on Kashmir, India Asks Turkey Not to Interfere

4. What are her politics?

Abrahams is a UK Labour Party MP, from the Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency. She has held the seat since January 2011.

Abrahams says she is being “passionate about tackling inequalities” in society. She was a member of the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Select Committee from June 2011 to March 2015, and was re-elected in July 2015 and held the post till October 2015.

She also served as the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from June 2016 to March 2018.

5. What’s her professional background?

Abrahams has a background in healthcare, and is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health, the UK’s top professional body for public health specialists and practitioners. She has advised several governments across the world and international organisations like the WHO on their health policies.

She also chaired the Parliamentary Labour Party’s Health Committee.