London’s million march for Kashmir: Why I did and I didn’t?

JK Bank

Part I

Why I didn’t attend the ‘million march for Kashmir’

By Rabia Latif Khan

This year October 26 saw the coming together of many British Kashmiris to London for a demonstration to highlight the forgotten conflict in Kashmir. For many disillusioned Kashmiris it was a welcome step in pushing for greater dialogue on the conflict. However, upon learning that the march had been organised by the former Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir my support for the march dwindled.

As a proponent of ‘azadi’ in its literal and absolute sense – meaning no India, no Pakistan and a free Kashmir, I could not as a matter of principle support a march orchestrated by someone who has upheld the very institutions that have heightened our occupation. Sultan Chaudhry was a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party. And as Prime Minister did nothing to change the electoral system in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, considering the constitution prohibits pro-independence candidates from standing in elections.

This in itself is a strong enough reason for British Kashmiris to introspect and reconsider whether attending such a march was really in the best interest of Kashmir and Kashmiris. Broader understanding and international solidarity for our cause will be hard to muster, when some supposed proponents of self-determination are themselves so ingrained in the political systems of the occupying states. Had a Jammu & Kashmir National Conference member instigated this march, there would have been serious debate as to its intentions, and whether the British Kashmiri community should support it. Unfortunately, this did not occur on this occasion. This is because for some the fact that Pakistan’s occupation does not equate in intensity to that of India’s in Kashmir somehow legitimises their claim to the territory, on the premise that they are an ‘Islamic State’. This only goes to make a mockery of our cause and the suffering of our people.

Dr Dibyesh Anand the head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Westminster succinctly conveyed this dissenting viewpoint by stating that ‘this march also plays into the hands of Indian propaganda which insists that the Kashmiri independence movement is nothing but a ploy for pro-Pakistan politics’. India and Pakistan are now acting like the colonisers they wished to remove from the subcontinent, who were subjecting their people. A grassroots march for Kashmir with sincere intentions, initiated by those without a tarnished reputation is one that every Kashmiri should support, but not this so-called ‘million march for Kashmir’.

Part II

Why I attended the ‘million march for Kashmir’

By Abdul Raheem Ahmed

Sadly at a time when Kashmir actually has a chance of coming to the forefront of British Kashmiri’s thoughts the same faults we accuse our older and backward generation of having rear their ugly heads in our self-professed progressive British-educated generation.

The main criticisms I have heard is that was organised by the PPP with the sole aim of scoring political brownie points both in the UK and Pakistan. The fact is people who held this belief displayed a great deal of egotism and arrogance as they believed that they were the only enlightened ones to see through this charade. Cue the self-ingratiating pats on the back through Facebook likes and comments about the fact that the people who partook in this protest had not the intellect to recognise this. Rather than embracing the fact that people are talking about Kashmir it became about false pride and pathetic rhetoric of ‘we were talking about it first/we know more/we’re more sincere’ the downfall of many young hipster activists who regard themselves as artistic martyrs.

In light of the actions at the march one could argue that the same eggs and shoes that were pelted at Bilawal Bhutto can be directed at the people who criticised the ‘inferior’ political acumen of the protestors. No political party or Pakistani flags were displayed, no political slogans were chanted, Kashmir and Kashmir alone was the focus. The days have gone where Kashmiris would obediently serve the interests of corrupt politicians as the growing political awareness within Pakistan has also trickled into the mind-set of the British Kashmiri’s who have been a sleeping giant at least in political terms for too long and insha’allah one can only pray that this can be used as a springboard to have serious conversations and debates around Kashmir.

By no means am I swearing fealty to the organisers of the event as their sincerity has yet to be proven. Nevertheless what has angered me is the fact that instead of cultivating this energy around Kashmir to raise further awareness we are wasting our time trivially debating whether it was right attend. This is the reason we have failed as British Kashmiri’s.

Too long have our bothers been tortured, too long have Indian soldiers violated the honour of our mothers and sisters in Kashmir, too long have our people’s blood been spilled and too long have We stayed disunited on the matter. As British Kashmiri’s it is our duty to raise international recognition as well as educating our own communities and societies, as they say the pen is truly mightier than the sword.

The authors are members of the Kashmiri Students Campaign United Kingdom.

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