LAST Wednesday the situation in the India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) in the backdrop of scrapping Article 370 of the Indian Constitution ending special status of the state and the blatant abuse of human rights was the focus of a debate held at the Westminster Hall of the UK Parliament in which ten MPs belonging to different parties and a minister participated. What transpired at the debate constituted the strongest repudiation of the Indian narrative of the situation in IOJ&K being its internal matter and her indictment as violator of human rights in the state besides advocacy for the need to settle the issue according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir. It would probably be pertinent to briefly mention the observations made by the MPs and the British Minister who participated in the debate.
Sarah Owen MP said “Lockdown in occupied Kashmir was not for the protection of the people but for coercion. More than 500,000 Indian troops have held the people of occupied Kashmir captive. Kashmiri Muslims were also being prevented from going to hospitals. Indian women were being harassed and raped on their doorsteps.” James Barry Daly observed “Tragic incidents of rape and sexual violence are taking place in occupied Kashmir. The lockdown is not like our lockdown. This lockdown attacks the very fundamental human rights. There are people detained in Kashmir who have been waiting for 15 years for a trial and there is not a single word from international community in their support.”
John Spellar said “We reject any argument in relation to Kashmir and Punjab that these are internal matters and of no concern to those outside. Human rights are a universal matter. The current crisis has been deliberately instigated by Indian authorities with their rewriting of the long-standing Constitution. There has also been the change to property law, to try to change the facts on the ground in Kashmir, fundamentally by changing the population and, therefore, trying to secure a different outcome from a possible referendum.” Sara Britcliffe said” The citizens of the region have been living in the world’s most militarized zone, with the fallout damaging the life of the men, women and children of Kashmir with curfews, a ban on communications access, the closing of media outlets and widespread arrest of politicians and human rights activists. We must ensure that we do all we can to protect the fundamental human rights of the Kashmiri people.”
Naz Shah deposed “In Kashmir occupied by 600,000 Indian soldiers, women are raped, political activists are in prisons, Indian Government is changing demography and thousands of non-Kashmiris are getting domicile. From 2015-2020 Britain sold more than half a billion pounds worth of arms to India which will contribute to shedding the blood of the Kashmiri people”. Robbie Moore claimed “No foreign journalists are being allowed into Kashmir by the Indian Government, communication is heavily controlled by Indian authorities. Thousands of people have been arrested and face harassment and imprisonment without due cause including lawyers, small business owners, journalists, students and, of course, human rights activists. Over 300 Kashmiris have been killed since special status was revoked. UK’s fundamental values are freedom and democracy. That applies not only to the situation in Kashmir, but around the world”.
Paul Bristow reiterated “We would urge Ministers to raise with their Indian counterparts the arbitrary detention of Kashmiri political leaders, enforced lockdown, ban on communication and massive human rights violations. India is a friend so I would urge to discuss with Indians on Kashmir. A resolution to this problem is bilateral approach by Pakistan and India but self-determination is a universal right”. Jim Shannon observed” There are still more 400 people who remain in custody under the draconian Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978. There is also a freedom of religion or belief element to the human rights violations of Kashmir, such as the shutting down of many mosques.”
Stephen Kinnock asserted” The Labour Party strongly supports the conclusions of the Simla Agreement and agrees that issues involving India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir should be negotiated between the parties. Kashmir is the longest unresolved conflict in a heavily militarized zone of the world. We see that the situation on the ground in Kashmir is bleak. Some accounts state that over 95,000 have been killed in Kashmir in the last 30 years alone. The Labour Party will always speak up vociferously in defence of the human rights of the people of Kashmir. Our position on Kashmir has not changed. We support and recognize previous UN resolutions on the rights of the Kashmiri people.”
Nigel Adams minister for Asia said” We enjoyed relation with both Pakistan and India. We still believe that it is on India and Pakistan to find political solution for lasting peace according to the wishes of Kashmiri people. Since 2019 we have been closely watching the detentions in India-occupied Kashmir. Any allegations of human rights violations must be investigated promptly. We strongly believe that everyone everywhere should enjoy equal rights and protection”. Reportedly UK Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, replying to a question about the debate said that UK has asked India to lift all restriction and allow a team from British High Commission to visit the occupied territory for a first hand assessment of the situation.
I am particularly intrigued by the remark of John Spellar that India was probably trying to change demographic realities in IO&JK to secure a different outcome from a possible referendum. The remark makes sense. The Indian leaders probably have it at the back of their mind that they would not be able to hold on to Kashmir for an indefinite period and a time might come when they would have to agree to a plebiscite as enunciated in the UN resolutions. It was, therefore, necessary to change the demographic contours of the State before that eventuality. The foregoing represent a triumph of the diplomatic offensive launched by Pakistan to sensitize the world about illegal action of India in the occupied Kashmir and the brazen violation of human rights by the Indian security forces. It also is a vindication of Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue.
— The Islamabad-based writer is former Director Administration, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation.