As London and Manchester recover from recent terror attacks, we now hear of a gruesome attack on the Amarnath pilgrims in Anantnag, Jammu & Kashmir in India. The group, who were on their annual pilgrimage, were mostly from Gujarat. This was yet another attempt by terrorists to disrupt a most revered pilgrimage for Hindus. As I write this article, I reflect that today, 13 July, marks the anniversary of the first ever organised communal slaughter in the recorded history of modern Kashmir, which took place in 1931. Hundreds of Hindus (Kashmiri Pandits) were looted, attacked, raped, molested and forcibly converted to Islam. Yet here we are, 86 years later, still witnessing horrendous attacks on innocent Hindus in the region. The recent terror attack on Westminster Bridge saw ordinary men and women stepping in to save lives and help protect each other. PC Keith Palmer gave his life, valiantly standing between the terrorist attacker and the hundreds of people working inside the Houses of Parliament. The bus carrying the Amarnath pilgrims also saw the emergence of an ordinary hero, Salim, the bus driver who, despite being attacked, made sure that the bus didn’t stop and this helped minimise the casualties.
In sharp contrast to the actions of these heroes, there have been unfortunate attempts to celebrate and glorify terrorists such as Burhan Wani, not just in the streets of downtown Kashmir, but in the heart of the busy cities of United Kingdom. The recent attempt to celebrate a “Burhan Wani day” in Birmingham was a direct challenge to the very fabric of the UK’s harmony and principles of tolerance. No sooner than this permission was sought by the protestors, in the name of holding a peace rally, the permission for it was withdrawn by the local council following complaints—a move I welcome wholeheartedly as a step in the right direction in curbing the propagation of a mindset that is evil and spreads hatred.
As the Member of Parliament for a constituency that is a melting pot of world ethnicities and cultures, I fully reject any attempts to radicalise and brainwash young people into celebrating an ideology that teaches hatred and violence.
The mastermind behind the Amarnath pilgrim attack, Abu Ismail, is a Pakistani national and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) terrorist, with direct links to Salahuddin and Hizbul Mujahideen, the jihadist terror group, which was recently added to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the United States. It is no coincidence that there are close commonalities and linkages between each of these organisations and the individuals supporting their activities, directly or indirectly.
Burhan Wani was certainly no local hero in Kashmir and deserves no praise anywhere. He was a self-styled commander of the Pakistan-supported Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) jihadist terror group, whose leader, Syed Salahuddin has just been added (27 June 2017), by the US Department of State to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The US Department of State designated Salahuddin because he “vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley ‘into a graveyard for Indian forces’.” Salahuddin maintains an office in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), and receives support from Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Salahuddin is also chairman of the United Jihad Council, an umbrella organisation that includes HM and also the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, two groups that are on the US’ and United Nations’ lists of terror organisations.
I have tabled an early day motion in British Parliament to urge the government to take severe measures to curb any such activity that supports terrorism in the UK or in other parts of the world, especially India. The EDM reads: “That this House condemns the recent killings of innocent Hindu pilgrims in Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir in India; recognises it as a gruesome attack on innocent pilgrims by Lashkar-e-Toiba, an internationally recognised terrorist group, led by Abu Ismail; urges the UK government to strongly condemn the attack and stand with India in the fight against terrorism; further seeks the UK government to investigate if there are any direct or indirect links to organisations or individuals in the United Kingdom that may be involved in such cross border atrocities in India; urges the Government to reject all forms of terrorism and support to organisations/individuals propagating such ideology and to take strong action against such organisations and individuals in the UK to ensure peace in UK as well as India.”
I commend my colleague, Mark Field MP, the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth office, for his tweet condemning the gruesome attack on the pilgrims in Anantnag. Prime Minister Theresa May said, “Enough is enough”, and that counter-terrorism strategy will ensure that the police and security services have all the power they need to tackle this attack on the fundamentals of our democracy. Any fight against terrorism is incomplete without the active support from people and their elected representatives, so I urge all my colleagues and their constituents to come together in this fight against terrorism and reject all efforts to glorify terrorists and radicalise the youth. The United Kingdom stands together with its friends, especially India, in this fight against terrorism.
Bob Blackman is British Conservative MP for Harrow East.