Backbench Debate on Human Rights in Kashmir 23/9/21
The human rights situation in Indian-administered Kashmir has long been a cause for international concern. Spanning 73 years, the Kashmir conflict is the longest unresolved dispute on the UN agenda. In June 2018 the OHCHR published a report which focused on allegations of serious human rights violations, notably excessive use of force by Indian security forces that have led to civilian casualties, arbitrary detention, and impunity for human rights violations.
The report made a wide range of recommendations including an independent investigation into allegations of human rights violations in the region.
Not only have the recommendations not been implemented, but the situation facing Kashmiris has become even more dire and has worsened over the pandemic. With increased military deployment and a communications blackout, the people of Kashmir face an uncertain and bleak future.
These concerns point towards a wider problem in India. The rise of populism has resulted in the lack of checks and balances, a power-hungry executive, and a crackdown on dissent.
The suffocation of minority rights and the lack of freedom of expression has also been illustrated by the ongoing Farmers Protests and the persecution of minorities including Christians and Dalits. The closure of the reputable human rights organisation, Amnesty International, also paints a depressing picture.
Discrimination has now become embedded in law, with the “Disturbed Areas Act” in Gujarat, a tool to discriminate against Muslims. Protests in Indian administered Kashmir are also prohibited. Kashmir is also the only state in India where a “crowd-control gun” is used, which has caused over 700 Kashmiris to go blind, including infants.
The list of issues is long Mr Speaker, but as the Parliamentary Group on Human Rights put it, India is a diminishing democracy.
The Government likes to talk about the close friendship between the UK and India, but true friendship requires honesty and accountability.
Successive UK governments have adopted the position that it is for the Indian and Pakistani governments to resolve the future of Kashmir and that it is not for the UK to interfere or mediate in that process.
However, we must go beyond this and recognise the role Britain has played in the Kashmir conflict. The roots of the conflict lie in the countries’ shared colonial past which facilitated the violent partition process between India and Pakistan and left the fate of Kashmir undecided.
So, will the Minister meet with me, Kashmiri groups, and members of the diaspora to hear their concerns first-hand?
This week the UN General Assembly also met, will the Minister outline whether the issue of Kashmir was on the agenda and what steps are being taken to ensure that UN resolutions are upheld?
The reality is that the Indian Government has utter contempt for international law and human rights and the UK needs to step up and hold them to account.
You can watch clips from my speech here.