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December 15, 2019

How Hindu groups attacked Labour for condemning Kashmir atrocities

Top Story

December 15, 2019

LONDON: The Tory party and its allied right-wing media attacked Jeremy Corbyn consistently and painted him as an extremist and supporter of militants for his principled stance on the occupation of Palestine and Kashmir as well as rights of Muslims, minorities and his support for socialist ideas.

Labour faced strong backlash, fully supported by Conservatives, when earlier in October the party admitted an emergency motion on Indian occupied Kashmir passed by the annual conference condemning India’s illegal annexation of Kashmir. The motion said there was a humanitarian crisis in the disputed territory and that the people of occupied Kashmir should be given the right to self-determination. It also called for international monitors to be allowed into the region.

Soon after the resolution was passed, the Indian government came into action and groups in Britain linked with the ruling BJP and RSS started campaign against Jeremy Corbyn calling him “anti-Hindu” and “anti-India” through its support group called Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP). The BJP’s overseas affiliate leafleted across the Indian communities urging Hindu voters not to vote for Labour and instead support the Conservatives who made no mention of Kashmir in their manifesto.

The Labour responded to the backlash among voters of Indian heritage by shifting its stance on the Kashmir occupation but the Tory party machine continued to exploit the communities on communal lines. More than 100 Indian groups wrote to Corbyn in protest and that received massive coverage in media. A group of Indians boycotted speech of London Mayor Sadiq Khan when he made a speech at Trafalgar Square on Diwali. Several councillors and high profile Labour figures announced leaving the party in protest and joined hands with right-wing forces.

On completely false grounds, the right-wing English media and some Indian media sections made false stories about Labour’s links with the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and said the Labour Party has links with extremists.

The issue started after the JKLF wrote to Corbyn congratulating him on his manifesto and assuring him of the “complete support of the Kashmiri diaspora” in Britain.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “The Labour Party has no formal relationship with the JKLF. Labour supports a peaceful resolution of the political situation in Kashmir. We also support the longstanding UN position that the political status of Kashmir is for India and Pakistan to resolve together on a bilateral basis, while ensuring that the Kashmiri people retain the right to have a say in their own future.”

Several Hindu temples got involved and urged the followers and members to not vote for Corbyn’s Labour Party. Just ahead of elections, Britain’s biggest Neasden Hindu temple in West London invited Boris Johnson as a guest of honour.

Speaking to the Hindu audience, Johnson promised to stand by Narendra Modi and vowed to deal with the “anti-India forces”. At the same event, he praised Modi’s vision and how he will give preferential treatment to India if re-elected and supported by the Indian communities.

Separately, the National Council of Hindu Temples (UK) urged Hindus to vote Conservatives. On October 10, the National Council of Hindu Temples (UK) and the Hindu Forum of Britain wrote a letter about occupied Kashmir to Corbyn claiming that Labour had become “anti-Hindu” and accused him of trying to “appease the Pakistani vote bank”, and therefore “becoming direct supporters of Islamist terror organisations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS”. These groups are known for their closeness with Bob Blackman, the Tory MP in Harrow East, known for his links with the Indian government and anti-Muslim groups.

Hindu groups ran campaign against two Sikh MPs of the Labour Party. The BJP’s affiliate ran campaign against Labour MP and Sikh Tan Dhesi saying in Whatsapp groups and messages to Indian voters: “He is always seen with Pakistanis and goes to the Pakistan High Commission.”

Election results show that campaign of the extremist Hindu groups failed to sway the entire India community but it did make big impact in nearly a dozen marginal constituencies where the swing vote helped Conservatives. A Tory Party Lord claimed, speaking to this correspondent, that the impact in favour of Indians was in at least 30 constituencies but one of the OFBJP volunteers said that its own assessment was that at least in 10-15 seats the Hindu voters went for Tories in protest against Corbyn’s leadership.

Labour MPs of Indian origin were all successful in retaining their seats and Indian voters voted for them but in other constituencies the case was different. The vote share of Bob Blackman, Barry Gardiner and Alok Sharma increased on the back of support they received from the Hindu temples and supporters of the BJP.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he aims to heal the nation and lead the “one nation” and it will be interesting to see in coming days how he achieves that by addressing the issues of Islamophobia, racism and communalism.