New Delhi’s reign of terror in IIOJK was discussed in Britain’s House of Commons earlier this week, as reports of fresh violence emerged. At least 28 British lawmakers also signed a letter to the Indian High Commission seeking answers over the rights abuses in Kashmiris. In the letter, they have questioned the Indian security forces’ killing of ‘innocent Kashmiris’ while noting that the Indian government regularly tries to claim that these unarmed ‘normal citizens’ are terrorists. They also question why Kashmiri rights activist Khurram Pervez was arrested – barely a week after his NGO criticised Indian security forces for killing civilians during a shootout which the government claimed involved a rebel group. Indian authorities buried the innocent victims in a remote graveyard without even letting their relatives participate in the burials.
Meanwhile, 2,500 other people have been detained — and virtually disappeared — by using the brutal Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Indian and foreign experts agreed that the 1967 anti-terrorism law was in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, even before the Modi government amended it to allow for anyone to be declared a terrorist without having to prove any connection to terrorist groups. Even though convictions — which still require evidence — have been rare under the law, it is being actively used to punish peaceful critics of the security forces’ excesses.
While India often brushes aside international criticism by claiming Kashmir is its internal issue, for many British MPs, the status of Kashmir is also a local issue. This is because conservative estimates for the Kashmir-origin population of the UK are about one million, making them one of the country’s largest minority groups. Several other groups, including Pakistani immigrants, also hold the Kashmir issue close to their hearts, meaning that Kashmir is a legitimate election issue in some constituencies. Call it pragmatic, realist or opportunist, but the fact is that, these MPs could be the key to changing Britain’s hands-off approach to the Kashmir issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2021.
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