London: A day after debating the alleged persecution of religious minorities in India, MPs in the House of Commons turned to alleged human rights violations in Kashmir and called for EU and UN human rights officials to be given access to both sides of the Line of Control, for Boris Johnson to raise the issue with Prime minister Narendra Modi, and for the UK government to “use its influence with India and Pakistan” and send its own delegation to assess the human rights situation.
The Indian high commission in London responded to the development with a statement that said that references to the Indian UT of J&K in the debate, “despite the volumes of authentic information available in the public domain, ignored current ground reality and instead chose to reflect false assertions of the kind promoted by a third country, such as unsubstantiated allegations of ‘genocide, rampant violence and torture’.”
UK minister for Asia Nigel Adams, representing the UK government at the debate, said it was “not appropriate” for Britain to prescribe a solution or act as a mediator in this regard, “but it would be wrong to not acknowledge that there are serious human rights concerns in Kashmir”. Adams added that the UK government was “requesting permission for officials from our high commission to visit Kashmir as soon as the situation permits”.
The 10 MPs who took part in the“political situation in Kashmir’ debate, which was allocated by a ballot arranged by the Speaker’s Office, were drawn equally from Labour and the Conservatives, most of whom represent constituencies with large numbers people of PoK origin.
Conservative MP James Daly, treasurer of the APPG for Kashmir, who visited Pakistan with APPG chair Debbie Abraham last year, called for the UK government, “working with our European partners with President-elect Biden in America”, to come up with “an international programme through the UN that will give hope to those poor people in Kashmir. The UK government have quite rightly expressed their views on China’s treatment of the Muslim population. We must take a similar stance in respect of Kashmir.”
“We are not against India… but that does not mean that we should not hold the Indian government to account… We also reject any argument in relation to Kashmir, the Punjab or the Uyghurs in China that these are internal matters. Human rights are actually a universal matter and concern,” Labour Warley MP John Spellar said.
“As elected politicians in the UK we cannot decide on domestic policy in another country, but we can use our influence. I would like to see UN human rights officials get access to both sides of the LoC. I know the Prime Minister is due to visit India. I hope that he will raise the issue directly with Prime Minister Modi,” said Conservative MP Robbie Moore.
Shadow foreign minister Stephen Kinnock suggested Britain should send its own delegation to J&K and report back to the UK Parliament.
The MPs raised concerns about the continuing lockdown and Internet restrictions in J&K, as well as allegations of rapes, detentions without trial, unexplained and uninvestigated deaths, disappearances, curfews, communications blackouts, and mass arrests.
“Without the UN rapporteurs allowed into the region, and with every report out of the region censored, how can anyone assure this House that a genocide in Kashmir is not taking place,” asked Pakistani-origin Labour Bradford West MP Naz Shah.
“India stands ready to engage with Pakistan on all outstanding issues — including on Jammu and Kashmir — in accordance with the Shimla Agreement (1972) and the Lahore Declaration (1999) in an atmosphere free from terror, hostility and violence,” the Indian high commission statement said.
Labour MP Barry Gardiner pointed out that one of the key areas around which terrorist camps in Pakistan are located is Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, and DUP MP Jim Shannon spoke of enforced disappearances, discrimination against the Ahmadiyya community and threats to journalists in PoK. He called on the UK government to use its influence with India and Pakistan to encourage authorities to grant access to EU and UN independent experts. (ToI)