London: The British Parliament on Thursday, October 27 2022, witnessed a historic commemoration of the 75th year of the signing of the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh, through which the erstwhile Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. Organised by the Jammu Kashmir Study Centre UK, a think tank dedicated to the study of Jammu & Kashmir, the event was hosted by Conservative MP Bob Blackman, who is also the Chair of two All Party Parliamentary Groups, APPG for Trade and Investment with India and APPG for Indo-Pacific and Co-chair of APPG for India and also APPG for Indian Traditional Sciences. The event, while reflecting on the historicity of the days leading up to the Accession of Jammu Kashmir to India, focused on showcasing the current developments in the region, including the positive changes seen since the abrogation of Article 370.
The event saw a packed room with over 100 attendees comprising of many local Councillors, community leaders, representatives of various organizations, members of the diaspora and friends of India. In attendance were Bob Blackman MP, who hosted the seminar along with Theresa Villiers MP Chipping Barnet, Virendra Sharma MP –Chair, APPG for India and Ovessa Iqbal, First Secretary, High Commission of India.
Bob Blackman, MP who chaired this informative seminar at the House of Commons, was the last British Parliamentarian to have visited Jammu and Kashmir in 2016. He displayed his framed copy of the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, adding that it occupied a place of pride in his office. He stated emphatically that it couldn’t be clearer that the late Maharaja ceded the entirety of Jammu and Kashmir to India and Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and has been since 1947. He hoped that better sense prevails on Pakistan so that it ceases its illegal occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir and the region gets re-united as that is what is legally and constitutionally correct.
Theresa Villiers MP said, “So often we hear ventilated in the House of Commons debate on Kashmir which is wrong, misleading, incorrect, downright lies and it is great that you are all here to talk the truth about Kashmir, to get some balance in this debate”. She expressed her desire to hear more about Jammu Kashmir.
Congratulating the organisers, Virendra Sharma MP said, “this is an important seminar and an act of remembrance for Jammu & Kashmir’s accession to India.” He spoke of groups who spread misinformation on Jammu Kashmir and stressed that this is why leaders from across parties and community members must come together and counter the false narrative.
Ovessa Iqbal, First Secretary, High Commission of India, highlighted the strides being made by Jammu Kashmir and the fast-paced growth since the abrogation of Art 370 in all sectors and across the state.
The JKSC UK team with a view to challenging myths and counter falsehoods surrounding the Accession, highlighted the Pakistani invasion of Jammu Kashmir and the terrible days between October 22 and 24, 1947, when Jammu Kashmir was subject to killings, loot, plunder, rape and kidnapping of women at the hands of the tribal invaders from Pakistan, led by Pakistani army regulars. The Hindu and Sikh population from POJK was completely annihilated. The resistance and pushback by the JK State Forces and ordinary Kashmiris established the fact that the Accession was the people’s will. The only outstanding issues remain the illegal occupation of Jammu Kashmir by Pakistan and the terrorism and radicalism sponsored by it in Jammu Kashmir.
There were video presentations by subject matter experts and stakeholders from across JK. Alok Bansal, Director India Foundation & Executive Director South Asian Institute for Strategic Affairs spoke on the antiquity of Jammu Kashmir and its history and culture being linked to Bharat and Bhartiya Sanskriti. Col Ajay Kumar Raina SM, author and Military Historian, Founding Trustee of Military History Research Foundation India focused on the role of Pakistan and its pre-planned invasion of Jammu Kashmir in 1947. Utpal Koul, International Coordinator of Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora strongly called out the brutal invasion of Pakistan in 1947 and its continued export of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir, which selectively targets Hindus. A native of District Bhimber, POJK, Professor Sajjad Raja, Human rights activist and Chairman of National Equality Party JKGBL spoke of the Pakistani invasion, which killed thousands of citizens and rape of many women. He added that POJK is facing the worst imaginable violation of basic human rights. All rights social, political and freedom to live has been usurped by Pakistan and the resources of the land in POJK is being plundered by the state. Professor Sajjad Raja demanded the reunification of JK and called out for people to speak up and stand up against Pakistan and its illegal occupation of POJK.
This was followed by an upbeat presentation on the numerous positive changes seen post the abrogation of Article 370, including vast amounts of investment pouring into the region guarantying economic prosperity in days to come, a quantum leap in infrastructure projects ensuring better connectivity within the region and with India, heightened security, strengthened grassroots democracy, political empowerment of tribal communities and other tangible actions towards justice for all. MP Bob Blackman was quite upbeat about the upcoming G20 Summit in Jammu and Kashmir, which he said would be a chance for the world to witness and experience the real changes happening on the ground. Yana Mir, the editor in Chief of The Real Kashmir News, also shared her excitement about the increased normalcy and other positive changes like the empowerment of women in a video message for the audience.
The attendees were enthused with the information presented and shared and there was genuine interest among the crowd to understand and know more about the region. Jammu and Kashmir Study Center also urged the crowd to join in for more such discussions in future and aid in spreading the correct information about the region that is essential to counter false propaganda by vested interests.