By: Sarwar Alam
British politicians Bob Blackman and Barry Gardiner have been awarded the Padma Shri – India’s fourth highest civilian award.
Blackman, the Conservative Party MP Harrow East, is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Hindus and long-time supporter of India and prime minister Narendra Modi.
He said that he is “deeply honoured, humbled and delighted to have been awarded Padma Shri as we celebrate Republic Day 2020”. He thanked everyone for “all warm and wonderful messages of congratulation” and said that this award is for the whole Indian Diaspora in the UK. “Jai Hind and Bharat Mata ki Jai,” he added.
Blackman spoke out in support of India’s decision in August last year to revoke Article 370 of its Constitution and end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The entirety of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is part of sovereign India, and people that ask for UN resolution to be implemented ignore the first resolution, which is that Pakistani military forces should leave Kashmir to re-unite the state,” Blackman said.
“I strongly support the revocation of Article 370… Narendra Modi has again shown proper and strong leadership in honouring the manifesto of the BJP – now is the time to properly integrate Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Constitution,” he said.
He had also written to British prime minister Boris Johnson accusing Labour Party MPs of making provocative claims against India.
Labour’s Gardiner, who is MP for Brent North and shadow secretary of state for International Trade, also backed India during the removal of Article 370, telling fellow UK politicians to leave matters of Indian constitution to the Indian parliament.
Gardiner told Eastern Eye at the time: “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 politicians who seek to use political disputes on the subcontinent as a way of dividing communities here in Britain.”
Gardiner, who is the former chair of Labour Friends of India, has had a strong relationship with Modi and had invited him to address the House of Commons back in 2013 when the Indian prime minister was chief minister of Gujarat.
After Modi was re-elected for a second term last year, Gardiner tweeted: “As Indian prime minister Narendra Modi wins a second term we congratulate him for his message: ‘Our alliance represents India’s diversity and our agenda is India’s progress.’ celebrating the country’s diversity.
“I look forward to deepening our friendship and trade.”
Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award in India. This year 141 Padma awards are being given in the fields of art, social work, public affair, science and engineering, medicine, trade and industry, literature and education, sports, civil service, etc. While the Padma Shri is awarded for distinguished service in any field, Padma Bhushan is awarded for distinguished service of a high order and Padma Vibhushan is for exceptional and distinguished service.
Modi on Saturday congratulated the Padma awardees, saying they include extraordinary people.
“Congratulations to all those who have been conferred the Padma Awards,” he tweeted.
The prime minister said the awardees include “extraordinary individuals who have made exceptional contributions to our society, nation and humanity”.