DESPITE sustained efforts by New Delhi’s rulers to remove India-held Kashmir from the global discourse, people of conscience everywhere are discussing the situation in the occupied region, particularly after the Indian government made its controversial move to strip IHK of its autonomy in August 2019.

One of the most eloquent statements in defence of the Kashmiri people of late has come from the UK, where Labour MP Sarah Owen made a strong speech to highlight IHK’s plight in Westminster Hall. The lawmaker from Luton North raised arguments that demolish India’s dubious claim of being the world’s largest democracy. As Ms Owen rightly pointed out, the lockdown in occupied Kashmir is about “control”, while also mentioning disturbing reports of Kashmiri women and girls being raped.

Questioning her own government, which often raises issues of women’s rights, the MP asked if London’s “actions match the rhetoric”, with reference to held Kashmir. Moreover, discussing alleged mistreatment of Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang area, which the UK has criticised unambiguously, Ms Owen asked her government if it would take a similar stance on Kashmir.

The British lawmaker deserves kudos for highlighting atrocities in IHK that many other self-proclaimed champions of human rights prefer to remain silent on. India’s slick public relations and media machinery — particularly its more jingoistic private media outlets — often go full throttle to whitewash New Delhi’s dubious deeds in held Kashmir, mostly by trying to tar the Kashmiri freedom movement with the brush of terrorism.

However, the fact is that under India’s brutal siege it is common Kashmiri men, women and children who are suffering. Patients cannot be admitted to hospitals, students are deprived of education while young men live under the constant shadow of death, afraid that they will be termed ‘militants’ and gunned down by India’s military enforcers. Perhaps if more persons in power, particularly in the West, had the courage to call out India for its atrocious behaviour in IHK, New Delhi could be forced to rethink its brutal approach.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2021

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