A backbench business debate was proposed by my colleague in the Parliament to discuss human rights violations by India of the people of Kashmir. Twenty seven of my colleagues of the total twenty nine, supported the motion proposed by David Nutall – most of who represented the constituencies with a dense population of people of Pakistani and illegally Pakistan Occupied Jammu Kashmir origin. Having been a long standing friend of India and the Vice Chair of Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group, I spoke in defence of India and highlighted the plight of minorities in the Kashmir valley.
With the limitation of time and lack of support from my ‘Friends of India’ colleagues, the debate was hugely biased and one sided. I am grateful to my colleague from Labour party, Virendra Sharma (also the Chair of Indo-British APPG) for having supported me in the debate. I am deeply disappointed in my colleagues representing the Indian diaspora, for not having chosen to participate in this debate whilst on the other side I was impressed to see nearly all my colleagues representing Pakistani and illegally Pakistan Occupied Jammu Kashmir populations in full attendance.
In reference to the very objective of this debate, I take the same view as our Conservative government – Kashmir is an internal matter between India and Pakistan and does not need interference from the UK. However, should a debate such as this go ahead as it did, I certainly will speak up for my constituents and stand up against propaganda.
The total undivided Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir region (including the Pakistan and China occupied territories) is the size of France, sharing its border with Pakistan, China and Russia. The state government of J& reserves 24 seats in the legislative assembly for PoJK in the hope that one day Pakistan will withdraw its illegal occupation of PoJK. While talking about human rights, it is important to remember the continuing fight for justice of Kashmiri Pandits and the fact that Jammu is under increasing threat of radicalisation with continued attacks in various parts including temples and highways. To make things worse, Jammu has now become the refugee capital of the country and is home to nearly 60% of the state’s total population.
I was appalled to hear contributions made by MPs who trace their roots to PoJK – they ignored the plight of people of PoJK who call themselves ‘Azad’ (Free) Kashmir. In a seminar that I hosted on 18th January, the day before the debate and which was organised by Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society commemorating 27 years in exile of the Kashmiri Pandits, I heard the first person accounts of the Kashmiri Pandits, contributions from Dogras on the plight of people living in border villages of Jammu and also a very moving speech by Sajjad Raja from PoJK where he said: “Azad Kashmiris are anything but Azad! Total population of PoJK is 4.5 million and half of them have emigrated to foreign countries. There are no jobs, no real education, health facilities, electricity, roads are unfit to drive on, rivers are without bridges and people are entirely dependent on Pakistan for each and every one of their basic necessities for life. Baba Jan and his companions have been jailed for 40 years as they demanded rights of their people; Chairman of All Parties National Alliance, Arif Shahid was brutally murdered in 2013 by Pakistani agencies and years on, nobody has been arrested and punished. Anyone who is considered a threat to the status quo is picked up, persecuted and brutally tortured.”
In the words of a famous Baloch leader, Harbbyaar Maree: “There are more than 200 hundred independent countries in the world, but none has this prefix azad or independent. For example, France is called France and not independent France and Britain is called Britain and not independent Britain etc. If your country has prefix Azad, then it means there is something wrong. Think carefully, Pakistan is fooling you by giving this false sense of being Azad.”