Labour politicians and groups call out Kashmir motion

Jeremy Corbyn  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

SENIOR Labour MPs are said to be working to refer the party’s controversial Kashmir motion, which alleged “state-endorsed sexual violence of women by armed forces”, back to its National Executive Committee (NEC).

At its annual party conference in Brighton last month, Labour passed a resolution which said: “The enforced disappearance of civilians, the state-endorsed sexual violence of women by armed forces and the overall prevalence of human rights violations in the region
not only continues but has exasperated further in the past week.”

It added that Kashmir was “a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir should be given the right of self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions”.

The resolution was criticised by India, with the country’s Ministry of External Affairs saying the move was “an attempt at pandering to vote-bank interests”.

India maintains that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and should be resolved by itself and Pakistan, both of whom lay claim to the state.

In August, the Indian government revoked Article 370 in the state, which ended Kashmir’s
semi-autonomous status. A security clampdown followed, with internet and mobile phone
links cut off since on August 5.

Indian ministers said the crackdown, backed by the presence of hundreds of thousands of security forces, was needed to head off trouble by Pakistan-backed militants in the Himalayan region.

Eastern Eye understands that senior Labour MPs who took a different view to the resolution, are working with the Labour Friends of India, to refer the Kashmir motion back to the party’s NEC, after the decision left the British Indian community deeply upset.

A request from Eastern Eye for a comment from party leader Jeremy Corbyn on the Kashmir resolution elicited no response.

However, Rajesh Agrawal, a co-chair of the Labour Friends of India, told Eastern Eye on Monday (7): “Our position is clear, that it isn’t really for Britain or for the Labour party or any political party in the UK, to intervene on what essentially is an internal constitutional matter in India.

“Article 370 is part of the Indian constitution. It’s not the Labour party’s place, or any party’s place in Britain, to intervene.

“We have asked for a meeting with Mr Corbyn to explain our point of view very clearly. We also want him to hear directly from the members of the Indian community as to their concerns. That’s the most important thing.”

Agrawal added: “The relationship between the Labour party and Indian community is strong and historic. Even in 1947, it was the Labour party that supported Indian independence in the British parliament.

“It’s important that we do not allow the politics of the subcontinent to divide the community here in Britain. We need to build bridges in the Indian community. It’s very important that the community’s concerns are heard by the party.”

Among Labour MPs who have taken an opposing view to the Kashmir resolution are Barry Gardiner, Gareth Thomas, Preet Kaur Gill and Virendra Sharma.

Gardiner, who represents Brent North in London, told Eastern Eye: “I would not expect any Indian politician to interfere with the constitutional arrangements and status of Scotland or Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. So I do not think that it is for UK politicians to interfere over the status of Jammu and Kashmir in India.

“Similarly, the revocation of any article of the Indian constitution is a matter specifically for the Indian parliament and not for politicians in the UK. I do not wish to see the politics of the Indian subcontinent played out in our domestic UK politics and I deprecate those pol-
iticians who seek to use political disputes on the subcontinent as a way of dividing communities here in Britain.”

Birmingham MP Gill said: “The Kashmir motion presented to the party conference is not Labour party policy. I want to make clear that we are committed to working with both sides on what we consider to be a bilateral issue.”

In his reaction, Thomas, the MP for Harrow West, said: “I am extremely concerned by the resolution and the way it was bounced through Labour’s conference after MPs were recalled to Westminster following the supreme court’s Brexit judgment. I have raised my concerns directly at the highest levels of the Labour party.

“Having helped setup Labour Friends of India, I remain strongly of the view that the country of Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Nehru and now prime minister Modi remains a force for good on the international stage.”

Slough MP Tan Dhesi said: “I appreciate the wording of the emergency motion has caused some division within the party and community, which the party leadership is currently looking into. Unlike what some people may try to portray, the Labour party is not
anti-India, anti-Pakistan, or anti anyone else. We merely stand up for and have always stood up for the human rights of all, regardless of background, colour or creed.”

Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma said: “Matters surrounding Kashmir and Article 370 are a matter for India internally. It is not for the Labour party to decide. This is a domestic issue which needs resolving within Indian law and the constitution. Kashmir has been an integral part of India since 1947 and it is a matter for only the population of Kashmir to
decide where they live.”

Ahead of Diwali festivities later this month, Eastern Eye under-stands that several Hindu temples have taken a stand not to let Labour politicians use the celebrations as a platform to reach out to the Indian community.