Masood asks UK to avoid diplomatic escapism on Kashmir

President Sardar Masood Khan has urged the British government to avoid diplomatic escapism and refrain from terming the Kashmir dispute a bilateral issue.

Speaking at a webinar titled “Twin Lockdown in Kashmir and Global Response” organised by the Tehreek-i-Kashmir-UK on Saturday, he asked parliamentarians and civil society of Britain to have a dialogue with 10 Downing Street, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office over the deteriorating situation in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Read: Occupied Kashmir sees 229 killings in first half of 2020: report

Academics and leading members of parliament belonging to the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Scottish National parties took part in the webinar.

The AJK president said concrete steps should be taken to help stop the egregious human rights violations, killings, torture, rapes and incarcerations taking place under the twin lockdown, firstly in the shape of a siege imposed in August last year and now a Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, which have made the lives of Kashmiris a living hell.

British MPs attend webinar on ‘Twin Lockdown in Kashmir and Global Response’

According to a statement, Labour MP Liam Byrne said the United Kingdom had to drop the pretence that this disputed issue must be resolved bilaterally. There should be impartial third-party mediation for the resolution of the issue in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir. He said there was a risk of war if the situation escalated amongst the two neighbours.

Mr Byrne condemned the growing sectarian polarisation in India and termed it degradation of its secular character.

MP Jim McMahon (Labour) said that almost one year had passed since the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had released its second report on Kashmir on July 8 last year but since then no progress had taken place and instead the situation had deteriorated even more.

MP Nadia Whittome (Labour) demanded withdrawal of troops and an end to human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir. She said that Articles 35-A and 370 should be immediately restored.

MP Stella Creasy (Labour) vowed to raise the issue of Kashmir with parliamentarians from all parties.

MP James Daly, Chairman of Conservative Friends of Kashmir and Vice-Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group in Kashmir, committed to standing for the inalienable right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people.

The AJK president in his address said that the situation in Occupied Kashmir was fast deteriorating and there was a humanitarian and human rights crisis there. Referring to the recent Sopore shooting incident where 65-year-old Bashir Ahmed Khan was martyred, and images of his three-year-old grandson wailing atop his lifeless body went viral, he said the episode was a harrowing reminder of the atrocities perpetrated by ruthless Indian troops.

“In April this year, they [India] went a step further and introduced the New Domicile Rules. Under these rules, India has done away with the Kashmiris’ exclusive right to livelihood, acquisition of property, employment and educational scholarships.”

Mr Khan likened India’s actions taken to reoccupy the territory and further bifurcating it to an act of imperialism and settler colonialism.

Speaking about the religious divide and discrimination against Muslims all over India and Occupied Kashmir that has been witnessed under the BJP-RSS regime, the president said that these actions were akin to the steps taken by Hitler’s Nazi party in the last century.

He said that currently the whole territory of Occupied Kashmir was under an occupational lockdown. Hundreds of Kashmiris have been killed over the past 11 months and thousands of young Kashmiris are in jails. The head of the Jammu and Kashmir police has acknowledged that 22 “militants have been killed in the past two months. India is carrying out genocide, ethnic cleansing and committing war crimes in Occupied Kashmir”, he said.

Masood Khan said that anodyne statements made by the UN secretary general did not affect India. “India continues its rampage in Occupied Kashmir and it is imperative for the UN Security Council to take cognisance of the situation in Kashmir as it is an active item on their calendar.”

The president thanked the chair of the session, Fahim Kiani, for organising seminal conference. He also expressed gratitude to Ms Uzma Rasool, moderator of the session, who had tabled a Kashmir resolution at the Labour Party Convention.

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Jim McMahon OBE MP, former member of European Parliament Phil Bennion, Brenden O’Hara MP, Alex Norris MP, Christian Wakeford MP, Stella Creasy MP, Rachel Maskell MP, Danish Writer Jane Teller, Senior Kashmiri Hurriyat Leader and Chairman Jammu Kashmir Salvation Movement Altaf Ahmed Bhat and Chairman of the Kashmir Institute of International Relations Altaf Ahmed Wani also attended the webinar.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 202