KASHMIR DEBATE: MPs Butcher Facts at British Parliament

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Parliament Square in London - Pics Arun Jacob Thomas/Asian Lite

The recent debate on Kashmir at Parliament witnessed the butchering of facts to blame India for the tragedy unravelling in Kashmir. 29 MPs participated in the debate – 27 MPs for the motion and 2 opposing it. Most of the British MPs were ignorant of historical incidents linked with Kashmir and failed to do their homework properly. How can you debate on Kashmir without considering the cross-border terrorism and the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits by Pakistan sponsored terrorists…writes Lakshmi Kaul

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Parliament Square in London – Pics Arun Jacob Thomas/Asian Lite

On 19th January 2017, the British Parliament saw 29 MPs debate passionately about Kashmir. 27 MPs for the motion and two, Mr Bob Blackman and Virendra Sharma, opposing it. Strangely several Indian-origin MPs  were missing from the House during the debate.

The motion itself read in bold, capitals: Anti-India propaganda! It was a mockery of democracy especially because all the MPs representing the Pakistani and Pakistan Occupied Jammu Kashmiri population were speaking almost off a common hymn sheet. Each spoke animatedly about the cruel use of pellet guns on ‘innocent civilians’ and how dictatorial the Indian government under Prime Minister Modi is!

The timing of this debate could not be worse. While the Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) mourned the bloody acts of 19th January 1990 as they remembered the sad, black day when they were rendered homeless overnight at the behest of Jihadi slogans – “Die, Convert or Leave”, our Honourable MP David Nutall decided to hold a debate glorifying the terrorists sponsored by Pakistan! Not even a single mention of the armed infiltration and terror attacks sponsored by Pakistan in Jammu & Kashmir and certainly no acknowledgement of the significance of this very day by anyone except Bob Blackman MP and Virendra Sharma MP who were the only ones to lay out facts in their 10 minutes each of limited speaking time.

The actual sufferers of gross human rights violations – the Kashmiri Pandits were forced to listen to people justifying bloody retribution, killing of innocent civilians and destruction of centuries of heritage. Masked as the freedom struggle of Muslims of Kashmir valley, this ideological fight is against democracy, progress, inclusion, growth, prosperity – it is the justification of painting Kashmir in the colours of Islamic State. The events of last summer leading to Burhan Wani’s death (the so called poster boy of Jihad in Kashmir) draws parallels with Jihadi John in the West, who use social media and propaganda to promote Jihad and killings in the name of religion.

For those who were so passionately speaking without any mention of the terrorist groups sponsored by Pakistan and infiltrating Indian territory via borders of Jammu & Kashmir, I would like to remind them that at the recent India-EU Joint declaration on the fight against terrorism (30th March 2016), both European and Indian leaders condemned, “the recent terror attacks in Brussels and Paris, Pathankot and Gurdaspur and recalling the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, calling for the perpetrators of these attacks to be brought to justice. Leaders called for decisive and united actions to be taken against ISIL (Da’esh), Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaishei Mohammad, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network and other internationally active terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”

Bahadur Ali, the Paksitani terrorist held in Kashmir

Security experts believe that the ongoing border violence is mostly linked to Islamabad’s goals to push disruptive elements and terrorists across the border before snow blocks the mountain passes. Trained militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat ul Mujahideen, Jeish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and others are given protection and logistical support by the Pakistani army until they are sent across the Line of Control (LoC) in batches of five to ten. The Pakistani army also maintains many terrorist camps across the border in Pakistan and has launching pads available near the LoC that keeps small groups of militants waiting for infiltration into Indian controlled Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan-assisted infiltration across the LoC tends to succeed in effecting penetration into India. The terrorists, trained in guerrilla warfare, manage to hide in the dense vegetation and when detected and engaged they often manage to escape into the hinterland after hours and days of exchange of gunfire with the security forces. (ref: South Asia Democracy Forum)

The debate arguments although hooked into the Kashmir human rights issues took on a strong Anti-India stance with parliamentarians questioning the very fabric of democracy in the largest democracy of the world! The response from the government brought some solace when The Rt Hon Alok Sharma made it clear to all parliamentarians that this is a matter purely between India and Pakistan and that UK does not interfere in their internal matters unless asked by them.

As for the information of David Nutall and his colleagues, Pakistan’s support has been instrumental in spreading terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir, but also in Punjab and North-eastern Indian states through military, logistical and financial means. In Jammu & Kashmir, however, Pakistan goes further as it openly pledges moral and political support to the Kashmiri jihadists, calling it a “Kashmiri freedom struggle”.

The people fighting against the Indian Army are Jihadis and Mercenaries trained in Pakistan with a view to destabilise the region. The recent demonetisation drive has put a sudden halt in any stone pelting activity thereby proving that they were all paid to attack the Indian Armed forces and government buildings. The only human rights that have been brutally violated are those of the minority Hindu community in the region.

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Lakshmi Kaul

Ever since 1988-89 there have been active training camps in Pakistan where young Muslim youth from Kashmir were taken to train them in arms handling and brainwash them into fighting for Jihad. Today there are 8 year olds and 9 year olds who act as Mohalla Commanders and those who indulge in stone pelting on Indian officials and establishments. These are young child soldiers and terrorists that have been created by Pakistan sponsored trainings and support – the UN has remained silent on this aspect of human rights violation that has taken away not just the peace and harmony of the region but has more importantly taken away the childhood and youth of these young people.

In the last couple of years the number of ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LOC) have risen steeply. According to Indian authorities, the unprovoked firing by the Pakistani army is aimed at infiltrating trained militants into Kashmir. Lives of many innocent civilians are also lost during these heavy shellings. There were 437 ceasefire violations by Pakistan till November 2016, killing 37 and injuring 179 in the Indian side. In a recent report to the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, it was stated that there are atleast 200 terrorists active in Jammu & Kashmir. Ceasefire violations in the last few years are known to intensify during festive and harvesting seasons. The mainly agricultural border population suffers heavy economic losses. With the firing starting just around the harvesting time, it chases away the labour working in the fields. The shells lying on the farmlands makes them inaccessible.

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Bob Blackman MP

In response to the huge Propaganda call made by these 27 MPs for India to abide by UN Resolutions, they may note that it was India that, on January 1 1948, went as a complainant to the UN asking that Pakistan vacate the territory it had occupied, the Indian delegation led by the Kashmiri leader, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. On 4 Feb 1948, the US Representative to the UN Security Council stated: “with the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India, this foreign sovereignty went over to India and is exercised by India and that is how India happens to be here as a petitioner”

A close look at the much discussed, UN Security Council Resolution of 13 Aug 1948. Part II, A1 shows that the first condition of the resolution is for Pakistan to withdraw its occupation as well as troops from the Indian territory:

  1. Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the State of Jammu & Kashmir, the areas it has occupied
  2. India to ascertain the wishes of the people about their future, after the entire territory of the State has been restored to its original demography
  3. Pakistan not to undertake any actions to alter the status quoThe UNCIP on 1 Jan 1949 stated:

’…In the event of Pakistan accepting these proposals, or having accepted these, not implementing Parts I and II of the Resolution of 13 August 1948, India’s acceptance of these should not be regarded in any way as binding upon them.’

But the status quo was altered by Pakistan (Dr. G. L. Bhan):

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Kashmiri Pandits protest in London

1. Pakistan ethnically cleansed the population of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir so there are no more non-Muslims living there – they were killed, converted to Islam, or forced to flee to India

  1. It invaded Indian Kashmir repeatedly and going to war with India in 1965, ’71. ’86, ‘99
  2. Pakistan annexed Kilaat province in 1958, and Sawaat province in 1970 through a Presidential Order.
  3. Through an Act of Parliament in 1972, it formally annexed Gilgit and Baltistan, all these now called the Northern Territories.
  4. The Interim Constitution Act 1974, Clause 4 (7) 2 states:

No person or political party in Azad Jammu & Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the State’s Accession to Pakistan.

  1. It ‘gifted’ over 8,150 sq.km. of the northern territories to China in return for China rebuilding the ancient Silk Road
    7. The status quo was further altered by China invading India in 1962 since when it has remained in illegal occupation of Aksai Chin in Kashmir, which constitutes 17% of the Territory of Kashmir
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Kashmiri Pandits protest in London

As for the issue of human rights violations, non transperancy in J&K and unrestrained attacks on civilians by Indian Armed Forces, the Indian Government has continuously sought to maintain transparency in the state. International and Indian media personnel, foreign diplomats, the International Committee of the Red Cross, all have had free access to Jammu and Kashmir. The National Human Rights Commission of India and the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission are performing a stellar role in taking cognizance of, and enquiring into, allegations of any human rights violations by security forces and initiating punitive action, in case necessary. The NHRC has undertaken, at its own discretion, investigations into incidents where human rights were reported to have been violated and where these have been substantiated, it has called for punitive action. The parliamentarians speaking on 19th January 2017 were obviously not given these necessary details of the issue by the propagandists and it is shocking to see them not do their own homework either!

Virendra Sharma MP at the Paramvir launch event at Nehru Centre in London

The Home Minister of India has announced an expert committee to find alternatives to pellet guns. The Chief Minister of the State who is democratically elected has met the prime minister to discuss the situation. The Parliament has seen four debates on the situation in Kashmir in its Monsoon session. An All Party Meeting held under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister on 12th August saw consensus across the political spectrum on early restoration of normalcy as well as unanimity on the need for Pakistan to end cross-border terrorism and infiltration. The High Court of J&K has asked the government to submit a report on use of pellets, relax curfew in certain areas and resume telephone services. The government has expressed its willingness to talk to all mainstream organisations, moderates and other organisations to ensure a democratic solution to the law and order problem.

It is important to not forget that the fundamental reason for the situation in Kashmir is the cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. Pakistan’s continued support for terror groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir is the main challenge to protecting the human rights of the subjects of the State. Pakistan’s selective approach in tackling terror groups operating outside Pakistan and within, despite the numerous solemn promises made underscores the continuing unwillingness to acknowledge the truth.
Government of Pakistan had made a solemn commitment in January 2004 to not allow its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India. The persistent and growing violation of this undertaking is a matter of very serious concern and we call upon our friends to persuade Pakistan to abide by its 2004 commitment.

India also awaits credible action by the Government of Pakistan to bring all those involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack and the 2016 Pathankot attack to justice.

A 95-year old lady arrives at a polling booth to cast her vote during the third phase of Jammu and Kashmir polls

Indian Governments of all colours have consistently maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is part of India and that the matter is internal for India alone. It rejects all third party interference. India is committed to holding dialogues with Pakistan on all outstanding issues including Jammu & Kashmir, through a direct bilateral dialogue process as mandated in the Shimla Agreement. A partisan debate such as the one held recently in UK Parliament has the potential to cause serious harm to bilateral relations between the UK and India and therefore also the interests of Britain. It would cause a great harm to liberal, democratic & civilized western world. It sends a message that the largest democracy in the world is not trusted by Britain; while a country (Pakistan) where minorities are exterminated, military coups are a norm and terrorist camps are rife is favoured.

Encouragement of such debates and the media coverage encourages the extremists with Jehadi mentality to bring their reprehensible fight closer to the British soil.

Coming back to the debate, for those of you who recall the Kashmir debate in 2014, you will remember there were an equal number of contributors on both sides making it a fairer debate. This time it was 27 MPs for the motion and 2 opposing it. I am forced to question the very passion and interest of the Indian diaspora in human rights issues and their discussion in the UK Parliament, especially those that are aimed at vilifying India. I am deeply concerned at the lack of any political lobby in defence of India in the UK eventhough there are numerous organisations, facebook groups representing the direct interests of India and Indian diaspora. 70,000 people gathered at Wembley stadium to welcome the beloved PM Modi and a few thousand could gather again at Wembley to protest against the ban on traditional bull fight in Tamil Nadu, where were these same people who claim to be proud Indians when their motherland was being insulted in the UK Parliament by utter twisting and partial representation of facts? Hardly any interest was noticed, despite numerous calls and requests to members and community leaders for lobbying local MPs. The various political parties especially Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems who have Friends of India groups were silent – none of their members came to speak in defence of India. I personally wrote to a number of MPs requesting them to speak in the debate which was otherwise one sided – I am yet to hear back!

Villagers show shells fired on their village allegedly from Pakistan in R S Pura Sector of Jammu and Kashmir near Indo-Pakistan border

A couple of Indian media groups were stationed outside the parliament but no British Indian media came to speak to Parliamentarians. A day before this debate Bob Blackman MP even hosted a seminar that was organised by Kashmiri Pandit’s Cultural Society to discuss the truth about human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir – no other MP took interest despite invitations and briefings. The question I am forced to ask of the otherwise influential Indian diaspora is – when will you wake up? Why were you silent?

In a relentless effort to carry on my efforts to reach out to each of you I have launched a social action project – #WeCare4India which attempts to help each of you learn the basics of lobbying your own MP and demanding your constitutional rights. When you get into the habit of engaging with the political system the debates such as the one in question will always have your representation. Knowledge is power, remember?

International lobbying is not always aimed at direct intervention and helping in resolution of regional issues, it never the less plays a very strong role in building the right or wrong narrative and global discourse. The impact of such an effort to skew the narrative cannot be undermined.

As pointed out by a student of sociology, Shireen Moti, a young Kashmiri Pandit studying in the U.K., ” there are only two basis of all inaction – first, Someone else will do it, it’s not my job; and second, bad things won’t happen to me.” How true!