On Monday 14th October over 100 Indian professional and community organisations from across the UK joined forces to condemn Labour Party's stance on Kashmir in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 that granted special rights to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Condemning opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, these organisations signed up to 'Labour's Anti-India' campaign launched in the aftermath of the “controversial” resolution passed by the political party at its Brighton conference on September 25th.
Indian Professionals Forum (IPF), Indian National Students Association (INSA), Hindu Council UK and Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society (KPCS) among others registered their support in a joint letter to the campaign launched by ABPL. The organisations have collectively expressed their “deep dismay” in the letter and accused Corbyn of bringing an India-Pakistan bilateral affair into the domestic politics of the UK by adopting a "divisive" emergency motion that calls for international intervention in the region.
The Labour Party on September 25 passed an emergency motion on Kashmir calling for party leader Corbyn to seek international observers to "enter" the region and demand the right of self-determination for its people, drawing criticism from the Indian diaspora representatives who described it as "ill conceived" and "misinformed".
Emergency motion passed by Labour unacceptable
"We are writing collectively, as British-Indian community organisations, to express our deep dismay that Her Majesty's Opposition has abandoned a long-standing cross-party position on Kashmir as a strictly bilateral matter between India and Pakistan, and in doing so, sown the seeds of community disharmony in the United Kingdom.
“We are particularly dismayed by the virulent reaction by the Labour Party to the removal of an outdated, temporary provision that was hindering development of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, development for people of all religions, of all genders, of all ethnicities.
"The emergency motion passed at the recent Labour Party Conference is not acceptable to us as it seeks to interfere in the internal matters of, and between, third countries and is drafted in a one-sided and divisive manner...We are also hugely concerned about the wider attempts to bring the Kashmir issue into the domestic politics of the United Kingdom, which has serious ramifications for community harmony,” the letter notes.
The letter particularly warns against practicing politics over issues concerning India and Pakistan and diving “disharmony in the diaspora”. As example, it refers to the clashes outside the Indian High Commission in London on August 15 between Indian diaspora groups marking Indian Independence Day and members of Pakistani and separatist outfits such as pro-Khalistan sympathisers. “If Corbyn doesn't think he has a problem, then he certainly has a serious problem," Ladwa
In the meantime, Manoj Ladwa, CEO of India Inc and former Chair of Labour's Indian Community Engagement Forum, has called for an urgent "course correction" in order to prevent the Labour Party from losing its diaspora support base. He said, "There are over 1.5 million people of Indian origin in the UK, who like me have traditionally voted Labour. If Jeremy Corbyn doesn't think he has a problem, then he certainly has a serious problem."
In the meantime, a delegation of Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) led by Kamal Dhaliwal had an audience with Corbyn where thesubject of "human rights situation in Kashmir"had been explored and spoken about. In a tweet Corbyn, hailed the meetingas "very productive"and wrote,
"A very productive meeting with UK representatives of Indian Congress Party where we discussed the human rights situation in Kashmir. There must be a de-escalation and an end to the cycle of violence and fear which has plagued the region for so long."
The BJP immediately hit out at the Congress for discussing India''s internal matters with foreign leaders and demanded an explanation from them. But IOC UK stressed that its delegation had met with Corbyn only to "condemn" the Kashmir resolution passed by them. Dhaliwal tweeted,
"Our meeting with @jeremycorbyn was held to condemn the Kashmir resolution passed by his party and to reiterate that J&K is an internal matter and outside intervention will not be accepted. @BJP4India's malicious statements are another attempt to distract people from their failures." The Congress also tweeted that the BJP has failed to answer questions on economic slowdown, unemployment and banking crisis and is resorting to spreading lies instead.
The Labour's Kashmir resolution was tabled by Pakistani-origin Labour MPs, who called for international intervention in Kashmir and added, "Accept that Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir should be given the right of self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions."
Corbyn has since conceded that the language used had the scope of being misinterpreted, but has stood by the emergency motion. "The emergency motion on Kashmir came through as part of the democratic process of the Labour Party Conference. However, there is a recognition that some of the language used within it could be misinterpreted as hostile to India and the Indian Diaspora," Corbyn said in a reply to the Labour Friends of India group last week as he invited them for a meeting to further discuss the issue.