Both the Birmingham and Manchester areas, from where many of the complaints originate, are centres of the Pakistani diaspora.
British Labour Party MPs are making a concerted effort to interfere with India’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, this despite the established position that Kashmir is a strictly bilateral issue between neighbours. It is not publicised how many of these complainers have visited India, Kashmir or Pakistan. The concerns are devoid of history and context. It is debateable if they have a 360-degree understanding of the ethnicities and persecutions involved. Both the Birmingham and Manchester areas, from where many of the complaints originate, are centres of the Pakistani diaspora, of which it is estimated that 60%-70% originated from the Mirpur area. Labour MPs are seemingly responding to pressure or other incentives from their constituents.
Debbie Abrahams, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary (APPG) Kashmir Group—whose purpose is “to support the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people through dialogue; to seek support from British parliamentarians; to highlight the abuses of human rights in Kashmir; and to seek justice for the people there”—was the first to kick off. Abrahams wrote to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Ambassador Ruchi Ghanashyam at the Indian high commission. Her letter questioning the legality of Government of India’s decision and suggesting international observers be dropped into the Valley started a deluge of similar correspondence from Labour MPs. Liz McInnes, Shadow Foreign Secretary, released Labour’s statement on India’s decision and wrote to Raab proposing that the UK government make representations to the GOI to drop any plans to withdraw Kashmir’s special status; thus abandoning the civil liberties enjoyed by all citizens in the rest of India, notably home ownership, education, health, LGBT, employment.
The letters, possibly adapted from a template, seemed like a coordinated anti-Indian manoeuvre, culminating in a joint letter from 45 signatories sent by Faisal Rashid to Guterres, requesting the UN “intervene and prevent India’s unconstitutional attack on Kashmir’s autonomy”.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary, carried by the wave of Labour MPs clamouring for UN resolutions to be implemented, joined the correspondence—Corbyn, whose Marxist Shadow Chancellor thinks that a Cuban economic system would work for Britain and whose party is completely divided over their approach to anti-Semitism and Brexit. Under a Labour government would they accept a separate state exclusively for a minority within the UK, that would cost 10% of the national budget yet have its own flag, where folks could make their own rules and women were chattels, subjected to the whims of their master, as was the situation in Kashmir?
Brummie and Mancunian councillors and business people also raised their voice. Anti-India meetings are being held in civic halls in London, Leeds, Nottingham, Luton and Peterborough.
Following a UNHR’s spokesperson’s concern, rookie Raab, who has some background in human rights (Liberty), appeared to be responding to entreaties from the opposition and embarrassed the Conservative Party by expressing his unspecified concerns to India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. On a local level, Conservative MPs Alistair Burt, Jack Brereton and candidate Paul Bristow have supported Pakistan’s position at public rallies or on Twitter and/or Facebook.
On 7 August, Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a telephone call from Imran Khan, to congratulate him on his new role, Downing Street tactfully reported: “The leaders discussed the serious situation in Kashmir and agreed on the importance of maintaining dialogue.” Johnson is pre-occupied with Brexit and unlikely to engage in the issue. GOI might not be so forgiving as they were to President Donald Trump when he blundered into an offer to mediate between India and Pakistan.
Only Bob Blackman, leader of the APPG for British Hindus came forward from Conservative backbenches with powerful support for the equalising of rights for all Indian citizens. In a letter to the PM, Blackman referred to the thousands of refugee and murdered Kashmiri Pandits, and India’s tradition of respecting all faiths. Blackman must know that during the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Kashmir valley nearly 100 Hindu temples were lost or damaged to arson, explosions and desecration.
Lord Nazir Ahmed, president of APPG Kashmir and Kashmiri activist with George Galloway former-Labour MP and anti-West activist, hosted a protest outside the Indian high commission. The event was better organised and larger than previous gatherings. Sayed Zulfi Bukhari, Special Assistant to the Pakistani PM for Overseas Pakistanis, and reputedly close to Sadiq Khan the Mayor of London who authorised the provocation, spoke on a soapbox abusing Narendra Modi and calling for Kashmiris to be part of the Islamic Ummah. As the event turned aggressive, glass, bottles, eggs and potatos were thrown at Indians celebrating Independence Day. Indians felt threatened, women and children were ushered into the high commission for safety.