WORCESTER’s Kashmiri community took to the streets to raise awareness of the ongoing situation in the disputed region and the increased tensions between India and Pakistan.
Former Mayor of Worcester Coun Jabba Riaz and Labour’s parliamentary candidate Coun Lynn Denham were among those outside the Guildhall on Saturday (September 14) to raise awareness of the ongoing conflict between the two nuclear super powers.
The latest move in the near seven decade long conflict was sparked last month when the Indian government revoked the special status accorded to Indian-administered Kashmir in its constitution, the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly 70 years.
A presidential decree issued on August 5 revoked Article 370 of India’s constitution which guaranteed special rights to the Muslim-majority state, including the right to its own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all matters except defence, communications and foreign affairs.
Thousands of additional Indian troops were also sent to the disputed region to impose a curfew while telecommunications and internet were also suspended.
Senior MP Farooq Abdullah was also detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which among other things, allows detention without formal charge for two years.
India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but rule it in part. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory. A rebellion in Indian-administered Kashmir has been ongoing for three decades.
The peaceful demonstration on the streets followed meetings attended by Worcester MP Robin Walker on the situation both in Westminster and with members of the Kashmiri community in the city.
Mr Walker met with Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Commonwealth, the UN and South Asia, joining a cross party delegation to discuss the ongoing situation in Kashmir.
While a number of city families mainly come from Azad Kashmir, a number have ties on the Indian side of the border. The Kashmiri community expressed its sadness at the curfew which has restricted family reunion during the festival of Eid.
During the meeting with Lord Ahmad, Mr Walker was assured the Government was working through all diplomatic channels to encourage de-escalation and to ensure long-term regional stability.
Mr Walker then met members of the community, including Mayor of Worcester Coun Allah Ditta, at Unity House in a bid to get some specific examples of the issues affecting constituents and their families.
“I have had serious concerns raised with me by a number of constituents and I was glad to be able to raise these directly with Lord Ahmad. While I respect that it is a tricky situation, I encourage all constituents with links to come forward and I will raise these directly to Lord Ahmad,” he said.
“I will take up further concerns raised directly with the Foreign Secretary.
“It is very important to me as an elected representative to ensure my constituents are well served and, in cases like this where family members may directly be affected abroad, I would urge constituents to talk to me so I may make representations on their behalf,” Mr Walker added.