The Conservatives in Britain have backed India’s claim on Kashmir, with Tory MP Bob Blackman clearly spelling out, “Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and has been since 1947.” He said this at a seminar organised on Monday, 26 October, in his own words, “to educate (British) parliamentarians and members of the community on the history of Jammu & Kashmir”. The seminar held at the House of Commons was commemorating the 68th year of the signing of the Instrument of Accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India and the ratification of this decision in 1954 in the State Assembly establishing the finality of the decision made by Maharaja Hari Singh. The function was, for the very first time, jointly organised by the Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society and the Voice of Dogras.
The seminar packed the room with representatives from across the Jammu & Kashmir and supporters from India and abroad. In attendance were Bob Blackman MP, Chair APPG for British Hindus, who hosted the seminar with Lord Popat of Harrow; Virendra Sharma MP, Vice Chair APPG for British Hindus & Chair APPG for India; and P.K. Patel First Secretary, High Commission of India.
Congratulating the organisers, Virendra Sharma MP said, “This is an important seminar and an act of remembrance for Jammu & Kashmir’s accession to India. 68 years ago history was made, but sadly the roots of the longstanding conflict between India and Pakistan were laid too. Only by understanding why there is conflict can we hope to end it for our future generations.”
A White Paper on the “History of Jammu & Kashmir” was released, describing the Instrument of Accession document and the various events surrounding the signing of the legal documentation that acceded J&K to India. Leading the commemoration, Lakshmi Kaul, the founder of Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society, highlighted the need for this seminar in the UK: “In the UK as well as other parts of Europe there is a growing anti-India lobby that is making people believe that ‘Kashmiris’ want the right of self-determination. This lobby has targeted and attempted to eliminate the very identity of any other minority communities in the region. In fact they do not acknowledge the state in totality, but only refer to the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir area calling out for independence. This misinformed narrative needs to be rectified and the facts need to be laid out. The seminar and commemoration is a joint attempt by communities from the region of Jammu & Kashmir to declare that the state is an integral part of the dominion of India and has been since 1947. This decision was final and was ratified in the state Assembly in 1954 making it legal and by the people’s will. Since its accession, J&K and its people have participated wholeheartedly in the democratic process of India and there is no reason for it to change now.”
The organisers view the commemoration as a step towards educating the misinformed discourse on J&K and an opportunity for bringing communities together therefore driving forward the integrated and united “one voice for one cause” narrative. Manu Khajuria, Founder of Voice of Dogras, said “Commemoration of Accession Day in UK Parliament today was not only a day of historical and strategic importance with the potential to change the discourse but it also set the ball rolling for community building. It not only gave face to the Dogras bringing them together in UK, but it also brought two key stakeholders and minorities the KPs and Dogras together.”
Prof Harbans Singh Sambyal, the Jammu based senior academic and author of The Troubled Years, spoke at length on the misconceptions surrounding the background of the Accession. “The state had been peaceful for a century till Pakistan who depended on communal polarization stoked communal violence at the border. The hordes of refugees coming into the state incited further communal frenzy. The Maharaja wanted to wait to take a decision in calmer times but Pakistan jumped the gun and attacked Jammu Kashmir. Maharaja Hari Singh knew that if the minorities of the state were to be protected, the Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs of the Valley, Buddhists of Ladakh and Hindus from Jammu Kashmir must accede to India which had adopted a secular Constitution. Hence the accession was the only, just and final decision.”
Anmol Ganjoo, the grandson of late Justice Ganjoo who was the first intellectual in Kashmir mercilessly killed at the hands of Muslim separatists during the 1989-90 exodus, highlighted the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits: “To curb this attack on humanity, we need to identify and address the root cause of it. The successful attempt to change the demography of the state especially the Kashmir region and the subsequent demand for independence and passing it off as the ‘will of the Kashmiri people’ is a cunning plan executed by Pakistan. What happened to my late grandfather is not still unheard of and many others are being persecuted even today. This needs to stop and justice needs to be delivered.”