SRINAGAR - A group of European Union lawmakers arrived in Srinagar on Tuesday, the first foreign delegation to visit Indian Occupied Kashmir’s main city since New Delhi revoked the region’s autonomy in August.

Hours before their arrival, small protests erupted in at least 40 locations around the city, prompting security forces to fire tear gas, a police official and witnesses said, despite heavy troop deployment.

Many streets remained strewn with stones, shops were closed and roadside vendors absent as the delegation of around 20 EU lawmakers arrived in the city shortly after noon.

Indian officials said the situation in Kashmir is returning to normal and hope that the EU delegation’s visit will help counter international condemnation of the government’s handling of the situation.

But opposition parties are angry that European lawmakers are being allowed to visit a region from which most Indian politicians have been barred since Aug 5, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government revoked Kashmir’s special status and imposed a harsh crackdown to stifle 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 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.

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, businessmen, two government officials told Reuters.

On Monday Modi received the delegation and said their visit would give them a clear view of the development priorities of the region, the prime minister’s office said.

Earlier, India denied access to the region to U.N. special rapporteurs, U.S. congressmen, foreign journalists and some of its own members of Parliament.

A British politician said Tuesday that the Indian government withdrew with “little explanation” its invitation to him to be part of the delegation after he demanded to speak with local people without a police escort, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament Chris Davies said the decision showed the Indian government is trying to hide the “reality of its actions.”

“I am not prepared to take part in a PR stunt for the Modi government and pretend that all is well. It is very clear that democratic principles are being subverted in Kashmir, and the world needs to start taking notice,” the news agency quoted Davies as saying.

An official in the office of the Delegation of the European Union to India earlier told AP the visit was unofficial and was being carried out by some members of the European Parliament in their personal capacity.

The region witnessed a complete shutdown on Tuesday. Markets did not open in the morning and there was little traffic on the roads.

Protesters clashed with government forces in several parts of Srinagar chanting slogans such as “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom” and blocking roads by burning tires and wooden logs. Protesters also threw stones at government forces, who fired tear gas and shotgun pellets.

Many Indian opposition leaders who earlier tried to visit the region were not allowed to do so or were sent back from the Srinagar airport by the authorities.

The People’s Democratic Party, a regional pro-India party in Kashmir whose top leaders have been arrested by India, has said it will not be part of any “rhetoric” New Delhi wants to build by concealing the “real situation” in the region.

The EU delegation’s visit comes a day after gunmen killed the fourth truck driver in the last three weeks in the region. Gunmen have targeted apple traders and truck drivers about to drive away with the apple consignments from Kashmir’s southern Shopian area, whose apple industry is vital to its economy.

Meanwhile, the United Nations expressed concerns Tuesday about the human rights of the people in the region. The spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the region “continues to be deprived of a wide range of human rights” and urged Indian authorities “to unlock the situation and fully restore the rights that are currently being denied.”