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Monday May 11 2020
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Over 100 UK mosques ask Labour leader to withdraw occupied Kashmir comments

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer. Photo: Reuters

LONDON: Labour leader Sir Keir Satrmer has come under renewed pressure over his Indian-occupied Kashmir comments following a meeting with over 50 MPs of his party on the issue and a letter he issued previously in relation to the occupied valley.

The Muslim community has responded to the letter with one of their own, signed by more than 100 mosques and community centres, threatening to withdraw support from Labour if the leader didn’t withdraw his factually wrong comments on occupied Kashmir. 

The letter threatens that mosques and Islamic organisations would withdraw their support for Labour and urge the community to do the same if he didn’t withdraw his comments. The letter also asks the leader to express support for the Kashmiri right to self-determination.

On Thursday night, the Labour leader issued a letter offering to meet parliamentarians from Labour Friends of Kashmir and insisted that Labour’s Kashmir policy remains consistent and that he would like India and Pakistan to work together. 

Also read: UK's Labour Party leader faces stiff opposition from 50 MPs over occupied Kashmir statement

Calls grow for Labour leader to condemn India

However, the letter by Sir Keir Starmer was described as “weak” and “meaningless” by two MPs who spoke to this correspondent. The MPs said they are under pressure from their own constituencies where calls for Labour leader to withdraw his comments and condemn India’s human rights violations have grown.

The new Labour leader, who took over from Jeremy Corbyn, had said in a letter written to Hindu Forum of Britain that Indian occupied Kashmir was a “bilateral issue” between India and Pakistan and that UK will stay away from it. His comments have angered more than 1.5 million British Muslims who are strongly attached to the cause of Kashmir.

The letter written by over 100 organisations affiliated with over 100 mosques across the UK have told Labour leader that they have been shocked to learn about his comments at a time “when the very same Indian Government is engaging in anti-Muslim rhetoric”.

Also read: New Labour leader faces revolt for shifting stance on Kashmir

'Kashmir is not a bilateral issue'

“Muslim coronavirus patients are being turned away from hospitals. Kashmir itself has been in lockdown for more than eight months now. India, under the premiership of Narendra Modi, is stepping away from being one of the world’s largest democracies," the letter states.

“We wish to remind you that Kashmir is not a bilateral issue, evidenced by the 11 UN Security Council Resolutions which declare Kashmir a disputed territory and that the people of Kashmir have the right to self-determination, something which was enshrined in India’s constitution."

“It is one of the world’s oldest unresolved territorial conflicts that has the potential to lead India and Pakistan into a devastating nuclear war which would have global repercussions," it further notes.

Also read: Top AJK leadership slams India over GB weather reports, LoC tensions

'Starmer has disregarded international element'

The letter tells Sir Starmer that he has completely disregarded the international element of the conflict but have also pointedly ignored the Labour Party’s own resolution, voted in at the 2019 conference, which states that Kashmir is a disputed territory.

“As a former barrister, you will clearly be aware of the seriousness of India’s violation of UN resolutions. As the new leader of the Labour Party, you ought to shoulder greater responsibility on this issue given that the partition was overseen by a Labour government," the letter adds.

“It seems to us that there is an ingrained view that the British Muslim vote has and always will be a secure one for the Labour Party, to be taken for granted with little consideration of the issues and concerns which matter to us as British Muslim communities," it further reads.

Also read: Pakistan concerned over rights situation in occupied Kashmir: FO

“We hereby state in no uncertain terms that should you fail to modify your position on the issue of Kashmir and by extension, the plight and oppression of the large Indian Muslim minority within India, then we will consider the Party to have taken advantage of the Muslim community."

“We will, therefore, have no option but to support a call for the Muslim community to abstain from voting for Labour at all upcoming elections. We hope that this will not be necessary and that the Labour Party will continue to stand against human rights abuses wherever they may be."