London, May 02 (KMS): British Labour Party’s new leader Keir Starmer faces revolt from grass-root Labour supporters as well as his own parliamentary party after shifting stance on the issue of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) under pressure from the Indian lobby.
British Kashmiri groups, who have mainly supported Labour in British politics, have condemned the newly elected Labour leader for insisting that the issue of IOK is a bilateral matter between Pakistan and India after meeting with an Indian lobby group.
“We must not allow issues of the Sub-Continent to divide communities here,” Keir Starmer said after a meeting with the executive team of the Labour Friends of India (LFIN). “Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament, and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for Pakistan and India to resolve peacefully,” he added.
Starmer made these comments intending to distance himself from his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn who openly criticised Indian atrocities in Kashmir and never came under pressure from the Indian lobby, maintaining his strong ethical and moral stance on Kashmir, condemning Narendra Modi’s actions against Kashmiris and the humanitarian crisis faced by nearly eight million Kashmiris. Labour Party’s left has already issued condemnation of Starmer’s bowing down before the Indian lobby linked with militant Hinduta Bahartiya Janata Party (BJP) and RSS.
It’s understood that dozens of parliamentarians – including around a dozen British Pakistani MPs – have called for an urgent meeting with the new Labour leader to seek an explanation of his remarks and withdrawal of his factually wrong and appeasement policy towards state terrorism of Indian government on Kashmir.
Kashmiri diaspora leader Barrister A Majid Tramboo of Organisation of Kashmir Coalition (OKC) expressed astonishment at the controversial letter of Keir Starmer. Speaking to The News, Tramboo termed it as “most unfortunate”. Barrister Tramboo further stated that the letter is in total contravention of the Labour Party’s policy, manifesto and various resolutions on the conflict of Jammu and Kashmir. He confirmed that OKC has written to the Labour leader highlighting the above factors. He said: “OKC is also intending to write to the prime minister of the United Kingdom in terms that under the COVID-19 guise, the Indian government continues its terror in J&K.”
Mirza Saaib Beg, Kashmiri lawyer and candidate for Masters in Public Policy at Blavatnik School of Government in University of Oxford, told this correspondent: “At a time when India’s Hindu supremacy and intolerance is verifiably established around the world – killing Muslims in Delhi, NRC, CAA, the nine months of communication restriction in Kashmir, the continuous detention of Kashmiris without any legal charges – after all this overwhelming evidence, the leader of the opposition made no mention of these and instead spoke of ‘Hindu-phobia’- an unverified claim made only by the Labour Friends of India. Kashmiris are not objects that can be bought and sold in lieu of aid or votes. The action of the leader of opposition is nothing but naked opportunism to profit off a humanitarian crisis in Kashmir, by bargaining silence over our suffering to secure favours from India or Indian voters.”
Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Tehseen Gilani said that at a time when United Nations institutions and human rights bodies from across the world are challenging Modi’s regime for the crimes against humanity, Keir Starmer goes completely against Labour values and traditions to support a fascist government.
He said: “Keir Starmer needs education on the fact that the UN has made a commitment to people of Kashmir to resolve the conflict through a free and fair referendum, so it is by no means a bilateral issue between Pakistan and India, or an issue for Indian Parliament. It is particularly disrespectful to say so, when it is being said for the sake of a few thousand votes and completely disregarding what people of Jammu Kashmir are subjected to on daily basis.”
London’s vice-chair of the Labour Party Seema Chandwani, said that Starmer “cannot meet with an unaffiliated unaccountable group of people and change the conference position on Kashmir unilaterally”.
Guardian columnist and leading activist Owen Jones said he would have preferred to see Starmer adopt a stronger position on the conflict and support Kashmiris’ desire for self-determination.
“Kashmir is a matter for the Kashmiri people, not the Indian Parliament. Labour should support national self-determination and human rights unequivocally.” Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Kashmir was clear in his August 2019 tweet: “The situation in Kashmir is deeply disturbing. Human rights abuses taking place are unacceptable. The rights of the Kashmiri people must be respected and UN resolutions implemented.”
The Labour Party under Corbyn also called for an international team of observers to enter the region, noting the “enforced disappearance of civilians”, and “the overall prevalence of human rights violations”. The motion added that “the people of Kashmir should be given the right to self-determination”.
On April 30, in a joint statement released by Labour Friends of India and Sir Kier Starmer, the new leader of the Labour Party said: “We must not allow issues of the sub-continent to divide communities here. Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully. Labour is an internationalist Party and stands for the defence of human rights everywhere.”
Starmer also said, “A Labour government under my leadership will be determined to build even stronger business links with India and to co-operate on the global stage on issues such as climate change. I look forward to meeting the Indian High Commissioner in due course to open a renewed dialogue between the Labour Party and the people of India.”