LONDON: The Labour Party has panicked on the issue of Indian occupied Kashmir after coming direct under pressure from the well-resourced campaign by the Indian government’s affiliates in Britain.
In what has been dubbed as foreign interference by the Indian government into the UK general elections next month, India’s ruling party Bahartiya Janata Party (BJP) has used its front organisation in the UK – the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) – to run campaign against Labour Party on at least 50 seats to sway Hindu and Indian origin voters towards the Conservative Party, after the Labour’s annual conference in September firmly stood for the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir, condemned the revocation of Article 370 and called for the entry of international observers into the locked Kashmir.
In an open letter penned by Ian Lavery to the British Indian voters, the Labour Party chairman has said that the issue of occupied Kashmir is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan in which the Labour Party will not interfere. One Labour MP has told this reporter that she will be writing to the Labour Party leader chairman seeking clarification on his letter.
The Labour Party chairman said in his letter that an emergency motion on Indian occupied Kashmir passed by Labour at its annual conference had caused offence to some British Indians and India itself.
He wrote, “The Labour Party is fully aware if the senilities that exist over the situation in Kashmir. We recognise that the language used in the emergency motion has caused offence in some sections of the India diaspora and in India itself. We are adamant that the deeply felt and genuinely held differences on the issue Kashmir must not be allowed to divide communities against other here in the UK.”
After the motion was passed at the Labour annual conference and made headlines, India’s ruling BJP activated its affiliates in the UK to target Labour Party at a mass scale. The BJP and RSS linked activists have targeted two Sikh MPs as well as other MPs just because they have spoken up for the human rights of Kashmiris, Sikhs and others in India. Several groups protested to Jeremy Corbyn and the OFBJP came out openly in support of Conservative Party.
The Labour Party chairman went on, “The Labour Party’s official position on Kashmir remains as the same as was stated by our national policy forum in its annual report for 2019. Kashmir is a bilateral matter for India and Pakistan to resolve together by means of a peaceful solution which protects the human rights of the Kashmiri people and respects their right to have a say in their own future. Labour is opposed to external interference in the political affairs of any other country.
He added, “The Labour party holds the Indian diaspora community in the highest regard, we respect and celebrate the immense contribution which Indians of all backgrounds have made to the UK in business, medicine, the arts and so many other fields. The Labour Party will not adopt any anti India or anti Pakistan position over Kashmir, we are motivated by our desire to protect the human rights of all peoples in the current situation and I am confident that this is a position you will share.”
The issue of Kashmir is of serious concern to the UK, more now than before. Britain’s former national security adviser Sir Mark Lyall Grant warned British government last week that extremism in the UK will increase unless the issue of Kashmir is settled. He told a seminar at the security thinktank Chatham House that India’s decision to revoke occupied Kashmir’s special status was likely to lead to greater extremism with a direct impact on the UK as nearly 70 per cent of British Pakistanis had origins in Azad Kashmir.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Labour’s candidate in Slough, recently urged people of Hindu and Sikh faith not to “fall for the divisive tactics of religious hardliners, trying to wedge apart our cohesive community, circulating lies on WhatsApp”.
According to official figures, there are more than a million Hindus in Great Britain, while there are more than three million Muslims. Nearly 1.5 million of the total Muslim population is of Pakistani and Kashmiri origin.