ISLAMABAD: A virtual conference of public representatives was held in the United Kingdom on Tuesday to deliberate upon the humanitarian crisis in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

The purpose of the event was to apprise the international community about the devastating effects of Covid-19 on the lives of besieged Kashmiris, according to a press release.

The conference was attended by as many as 60 mayors, deputy mayors, councillors and community leaders from across the length and breadth of the UK.

They condemned the brutalities perpetrated by the Indian army against the hapless people even during the pandemic. “The focus of the discussion was on ending human rights violations and bringing the perpetrators to justice,” the press release said.

In his remarks, Pakistan’s high commissioner termed the situation in India-held Kashmir catastrophic after the coronavirus outbreak.

The event was attended by 60 mayors, deputy mayors, councillors and community leaders from across the UK

“Lack of access to medical facilities has compounded their sufferings and devastated the lives of many families,” Nafees Zakaria said.

He expressed the hope that expression of concern at such an important gathering would send a reminder to the world and defenders of human rights to address the plight of innocent Kashmiris.

Mr Zakaria said during these difficult times Kashmiris look up to the world to end their decades-long sufferings, which have aggravated since Aug 5 last year.

Mr Zakaria referred to documentary evidence published by the UN and human rights organisations that highlighted the crimes against humanity committed by Indian occupation forces.

He mentioned the reports by the UN rapporteurs on extra-judicial and custodial executions, arbitrary detentions, torture and other inhuman treatment.

He said evidence of mass graves, rapes, numerous massacres since 1989, custodial and extra-judicial killings were enough for the international community to take action against the perpetrators.

The Kashmiri diaspora in Britain have strong ties with the people in held Kashmir as their extended families and close relatives live there.

They expressed anguish at the atrocities against their brethren by the Indian army.

The speakers said India had violated all conventions and international laws on human rights with impunity and brushed aside the UN Charter and UNSC resolutions on Kashmir.

After enforcing the J & K Reorga­nisation Order in August last year, followed by ‘new domicile’ procedures, India had speeded up a demographic change to convert Kashmiris into a minority in their own land, they observed.

The participants said the number of Kashmiris living in the India-held region had been steadily declining since 1947 as New Delhi was encouraging Indians to resettle there.

The speakers also deliberated upon the dangers Indian belligerence at the LoC posed to regional security and the economic toll it was taking on the lives of 1.4 billion people in the region.

They appreciated Pakistan’s diplomatic support for the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.

The speakers urged the British government as well as parliament to speak up in support of Kashmiris.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2020