The British Parliament complex recently played host to a historical commemoration – 75 years since the signing of the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh, through which the erstwhile Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. The event was organised by the Jammu Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC) UK, a think tank dedicated to studying Jammu & Kashmir at the House of Commons.
The event last week reflected upon the significance of the days leading up to the Accession of Jammu Kashmir to India. It also focused on showcasing the region's current development, including the positive changes seen since the abrogation of Article 370.
In a packed Committee Room with over 100 attendees, comprising many local Councillors, community leaders, representatives of various organisations, British Indian diaspora members and friends of India, Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman hosted the seminar along with fellow Tory MP Theresa Villiers and Opposition Labour MP Virendra Sharma, Chair of APPG for India and Ovessa Iqbal, the Kashmiri First Secretary of the High Commission of India in London.
Blackman pointed out that he 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 that Jammu and Kashmir have been an integral part of India since 1947.
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He hoped that better sense would prevail on Pakistan so that it would cease its illegal occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir and the region would get re-united as that is legally and constitutionally correct.
Villiers noted: "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".
Congratulating the organisers, Sharma 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 leaders from across parties and community must come together to counter the false narrative.
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Iqbal highlighted the strides being made by Jammu Kashmir and the fast-paced growth since the abrogation of Article 370 in all sectors and across the state.
To challenge myths and counter falsehoods surrounding the Accession, the JKSC UK team highlighted the “Pakistani invasion of Jammu Kashmir” and the gruesome days between October 22 to 24 in 1947. The resistance and pushback by the J&K State Forces and ordinary Kashmiris established that the Accession was the people's will, the team noted.
This was followed by an insightful presentation on the numerous positive changes seen post the abrogation of Article 370. Improvements in the vast amounts of investment pouring into the region, guarantying economic prosperity in days to come, the “quantum leap” in infrastructure projects ensuring better connectivity within the area and with India, heightened security, strengthened grassroots democracy, political empowerment of tribal communities and other tangible actions towards justice for all can be sighted as such.
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Blackman was 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 over the move towards peace and other positive changes, like women’s empowerment, in a video message for the audience.
JKSC UK urged the public to join in for more such discussions in future and help spread the right information about the region that is essential to counter false propaganda by vested interests.
*Info: JKSC UK