By Khalid Mahmood MP
(The writer is Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Member of Parliament for Birmingham Perry Barr)
The situation in occupied Kashmir has been escalated exponentially into the complete suppression of the freedoms and civil liberties of its people. Despite this, the crisis is receiving relatively little news coverage and political attention effectively indicating that the UK, EU and other Western countries champion democracy and human rights with partiality.
The focus on the current situation in Hong Kong, where there is wall to wall media coverage and scrutiny about a potential change to one law, lays bare the complacency that the international community is exhibiting towards Kashmir. UN resolutions promised the Kashmiris a plebiscite to determine their own future – a promise that has been disregarded for over 70 years. India continues to inflict human rights abuses on the Kashmiri people and has now arbitrarily revoked occupied Kashmir’s Special Status.
By revoking Articles 370 and 35a, without any attempt at consultation, the Indian Government have stripped the people of occupied Kashmir of their democratic rights, their legislature and their territorial exclusivity protection. The proposals to sell land, held for generations by Kashmiri Muslim farmers, in order to settle Hindu nationalists loyal to the current Government is nothing short of ethnic cleansing and will inevitably lead to conflict.
This revocation effectively renders the majority Muslim population subject to the vagaries and whims of this and successive Indian Governments. The arbitrary detention of the leaders of the mainstream Kashmiri political parties and the stringent restrictions that have been placed on the freedom of movement and communication of ordinary Kashmiris risks regional peace in what is the most militarised area in the world. Indian Occupied Kashmir has been described as effectively being one big prison camp.
The Indian government’s actions are in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution no. 47 and will further exacerbate the human rights breaches that the people of Kashmir have suffered for over 70 years. Whilst the Indian Government may claim that this is an internal or bilateral (with Pakistan) matter, the history of the region, the flagrant disregard for the human rights of the occupied Kashmiri people and the implications of the current situation mean that international intervention is urgently required. Human rights abuses are not an internal or bilateral matter. They are the concern of the whole world and contrary to international law and the accepted norms of decency. The Indian government continue to act with impunity, whilst the Kashmiri people continue suffer evermore abuse of their human rights.
The UK, having been the architect of the geo-political arrangements at the time of Partition, has a particular responsibility to the Kashmiri people to act. Moreover, more than 2 million British citizens of Kashmiri descent anxiously await our Prime Minister’s response. The choice is simple, whether he offers his support to the voiceless, subjugated people of occupied Kashmir or instead stays silent about the illegal, inhumane and undemocratic actions of the current Indian government. Without co-ordinated and decisive intervention I fear that the situation will have far reaching implications for the region and beyond.
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