More solidarity with Kashmir

Various Labour groups have now spoken out against Keir Starmer’s unilateral abandonment of Party policy on Kashmir, adopted by conference last September.

Below are statements from the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and Momentum Internationalists.

In addtion, over 100 British mosques and Islamic centres have signed a letter (below) saying they would support a call for Muslims to abstain from voting for Labour unless it supports Kashmir’s right to self-determination.

Socialist Campaign Group of MPs

Labour left MPs and activists defy Starmer-led party position on Kashmir

Sienna Rodgers, LabourList 7th May

Labour left groups have spoken out to defy the party’s position on the Kashmiri conflict, as set out by Keir Starmer last week after he met with the executive team of Labour Friends of India.

The Socialist Campaign Group, made up of MPs on the left of the party, has released a statement today expressing “solidarity with the people of Kashmir in their struggle against the world’s largest military occupation”.

In what is understood to be a reaction to Starmer’s recent comments, it declares that the group’s “internationalism acknowledges the role of British colonial injustices and the inalienable nature of universal human rights”.

The SCG includes shadow cabinet members Rebecca Long-Bailey, Marsha de Cordova and Andy McDonald, plus several other frontbenchers, such as shadow ministers Dan Carden and Imran Hussein.

Labour left activists have also voiced opposition to the policy, with new grassroots group Momentum Internationalists organising an open letter signed by hundreds of members that condemns the position expressed by Starmer.

Their statement explicitly argues against the position advocated by Starmer, saying that they were “disturbed” by the comments that were “in defiance of party policy”. It calls on the new leader to “respect our democracy and conference policy”.

It is signed by a number of Labour councillors, trade unionists, officers of local Labour parties, executive members of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and party activists from across the country.

Labour conference in 2019 passed an emergency motion criticising the actions of India in the Kashmiri conflict and supporting self-determination rights for Kashmiris. LFIN said it contained “anti-Indian rhetoric”.

After the motion caused controversy, then party chair Ian Lavery issued a letter that described Kashmir as a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve and said Labour was opposed to external interference.

After Starmer’s call with the LFIN executive last week, he said: “We must not allow issues of the sub-continent to divide communities here. Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament, and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully.”


Below is the full text of the SCG statement on Kashmir.

“We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Kashmir in their struggle against the world’s largest military occupation.

In accordance with the motion passed unanimously at Labour conference in 2019, and as enshrined by multiple UN resolutions, we recognise that Kashmir is a disputed territory and demand the realisation of the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination, as mandated by UN Resolution 47.

“We are deeply concerned by the ongoing human rights violations, including torture, rape, extrajudicial execution and illegal detention, that continue to take place in Kashmir that have been widely documented by numerous human rights organisations and that have been intensified by Narendra Modi’s government.

“Furthermore, in August 2019, the Indian government unilaterally revoked Articles 370 and 35a of the constitution that granted Indian occupied Kashmir autonomy reflective of its status as an occupied territory, and subjected the Kashmir people to a seven-month long lockdown and repressive communications blackout that was brutally enforced by Indian Security Forces.

“We recognise the UK’s responsibility regarding the ongoing situation in Kashmir due to the historic role played in this conflict during the partition of the Indian sub-continent that laid the groundwork for the oppression faced by the Kashmiris.

“Our internationalism acknowledges the role of British colonial injustices and the inalienable nature of universal human rights.”


Below is the full text of the open letter organised by Momentum Internationalists.

“Labour must campaign for its democratically-agreed 2019 conference policy of demanding “the restoration of basic human rights and… the right to self-determination” in Kashmir.

“We were disturbed by Keir Starmer’s declaration, in defiance of party policy, that “any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament” and his signalling through talk about “business links” and “dialogue” that he wants a rapprochement with India’s far-right government.

“He says “Labour is an internationalist party and stands for the defence of human rights everywhere”. For that to be more than empty words, the party must firmly oppose human rights violations everywhere, including in Kashmir; support democracy and the right to self-determination – including in Kashmir; and fight the global nationalist right, of which the Modi regime is a central pillar.

“We must not capitulate to the Hindu right’s communalist agitation in Britain, which seeks to divide communities on religious lines while shouting that support for human rights is divisive. We must not abandon our comrades in India fighting for democracy, workers’ rights and the rights of minorities against the Hindu nationalist regime.

“We call on Keir Starmer and the party leadership to respect our democracy and conference policy, and to show it is serious about the fight for human rights, including in Kashmir.”

Signatories:

Ruth Cashman, Tooting, UNISON Branch Secretary
Joshua Lovell, Stevenage, Councillor, Cambridge UCU Member
Syed Tahseen Gilani, Luton North, Labour member and President of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF)
and 300 others


Over 100 mosques threaten to boycott Labour over Kashmir

5Pillars, 10 May 2020

Over 100 British mosques and Islamic centres have signed a letter to Labour leader Keir Starmer saying they would support a call for Muslims to abstain from voting for Labour unless it supports Kashmir’s right to self-determination.

The letter came after Starmer described the Kashmir dispute as a “bilateral issue” between India and Pakistan after a meeting with an Indian lobby group at the end of last month.

Starmer’s comments caused outrage among Muslims and eventually led to several Labour Muslim MPs reiterating their support for Kashmiri rights.

The Labour leader has since said that the party’s position on Kashmir has not changed and that it recognises previous UN resolutions on the rights of the Kashmiri people.

Here is the letter from the mosques in full:

We, the undersigned members of the Muslim community living in the UK (many of whom have families in South Asia), are writing to express our utter shock at the contents of your letter in which you clearly express unflinching support for the Indian Government’s position on Kashmir.

This, at a time when the very same Indian Government is engaging in anti-Muslim rhetoric and failing to protect the Indian Muslim community from populist violence, and enacting laws that will potentially render 40 million Muslim citizens in India stateless, which as you well know contravenes international law.

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 and hurtling instead towards becoming a fascist-led authoritarian state where minorities, Muslims and others, no longer feel safe or protected. It is the members of this very same hate-fuelled ideology who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.

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 under Article 370. The meeting at the Security Council last year on 16th August 2019 is further evidence that this is not just a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

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. You have not only 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:

“[We] accept that Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir should be given the right to self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions. The Labour Party to stand with the Kashmiri people fighting against occupation, this is vital as we stand for social justice and ethical foreign policy.”

It would seem to us that holding foreign governments to account over their discriminatory policies and human rights abuses does not seem to be a foreign policy goal under your leadership. As a former barrister, you will clearly be aware of the seriousness of India’s violation of UN resolutions. In addition, you, as the new leader of the Labour Party ought to shoulder greater responsibility on this issue given that the partition which led to this conflict was overseen by a Labour government at the time.

Indian occupation forces in Kashmir

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. In view of the concerns raised above, we strongly urge you to reconsider the party’s position.

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 Labour Party to have simply 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. We urge you not to underestimate the strength of our feeling on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations (FORMO) – 17 organisations
Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust – 22 centres
Indian Muslim Federation UK
Muslim Association of Kent – 20 organisations
South East London & Kent Council of Mosques (SELKOM) – 7 organisations
Waltham Forest Council of Mosques (WFCOM) – 9 organisations
Al-Hira Masjid Newham
Academy of Inspiration
Al Ansar Masjid
Al-Emaan Centre (Keston Mosque)
Al Madina Mosque Barking
Al Noor Foundation
Anjuman-e-Islamia Newham
Apex Trust
Association of Muslim Lawyers
Attiq Malik on behalf of Liberty Law
Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society
Brent Central Mosque
BWA Muslim Cultural Centre (New Cross Mosque)
Chingford Islamic Society
Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery
Faizan-e-Islam
Finsbury Park Mosque
Ghosia Masjid WFIA (Lea Bridge Road Mosque)
Great Barr Muslim Foundation Birmingham
Harrow Central Mosque
Hounslow Jamia Masjid
IG-Soc (“Connecting Muslims in Redbridge”)
Ilford Islamic Centre (Albert Road)
Ilford Muslim Society (Balfour Road)
International Business and Professional Corporation,
Redbridge Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre (JMIC)
Stoke Poges Lane Masjid
Kent Muslim Welfare Association (Gillingham Mosque)
Lewisham Islamic Centre
Leyton Jamia Masjid MCT
Leytonstone Masjid Majlis-e-Ulama-e-Shia-Europe
Masjid Abu Bakr
Masjid Al Humera Newham
Masjid-e-Owais-e-Qarni (Belgrave Road)
Masjid-e-Quba Newham
Masjid-e-Tauheed Manor Park
Masjid-e-Umer
Masjid Falah
Masjid Tawhid
Muslimah Sports Association
Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC)
Neasden Mosque & Islamic Centre
Newbury Park Mosque
Newham Community Project
Newham North Islamic Association
Noor-ul-Islam
North West Kent Muslim Association (Crayford Mosque)
Pakistan Welfare Association (PWA) Slough
Qur’ani Murkuz Trust (South Woodford Mosque) Redbridge Islamic Centre (Redbridge and Gants Hill) Redbridge Talks
Seven Kings Muslim Educational Trust
Shirley Muslim Association
Sri Lankan Diaspora UK
Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK, London
The Mosque & Islamic Centre of Brent
Ujala Foundation Slough
UKIM Masjid Ibrahim and Islamic Centre Newham

Comments (4)

  • Ellie Palmer says:

    Should also be noted that in East Harrow, erstwhile Labour voters were not just ‘bringing it up’ on the doorstep (as with anti semitism). Instructed by religious leaders not to vote for Corbyn led government they slammed doors in our faces.

  • Joern Janssen says:

    I support the SCG position

  • RC says:

    Keir Starmer’s eccentric, erroneous and reactionary comments are in no way Party policy. If anyone is defying party policy – as set out at Conference 2019 – it is Starmer and also Lavery. Is Sienna Rodgers trailing her coat in the hope of currying favour, or is she merely a groupie in a Bonapartist cult of the Fuehrerprinzip? Very modi-ish if you will forgive the pun. Seriously, this raises the issue of whether we are a democratic party or one dominated by whim- (and capitalist-) compliant bureaucratic centralism….

  • RC says:

    In a letter to Keir Starmer of 10th May 2020, Mrs Trupti Patel on behalf of the (‘umbrella organisation’) Hindu Forum of Britain, writes that “Pakistan occupied Kashmir is an integral part of India”. {the letter is easily accessed on the HFB website, section headlined ‘meeting with Keir Starmer’} In my understanding this goes far beyond the unacceptable assimilation of India occupied Kashmir and the reign of terror imposed on Kashmir by India forces; it constitutes an irredentist threat, which is indisputably not merely a matter of relations between India and Pakistan. It constitutes a serious threat to ‘world peace’ – sc the current unstable and rickety international situation.
    Yet the concerns expressed at Conference 2019 are portrayed as ‘anti-Indian sentiment’. Further material on the HFB site distinguishes between Indians and Muslims. We should use a very long spoon indeed in dealing, if at all. with these chauvinists, and firmly reject parti pris nonsense about condemnations of barbaric acts by the Modi government as ‘dividing communities in the UK’. We must support progressive and democratic British Indians against supporters of the RSS and the BJP.
    Why does this situation remind me – and perhaps you – of the bleats by committed supporters of a racist and annexationist regime, claiming that objections to racism and annexationism are themselves racist?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Read our full comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.