The United Kingdom government has told India that it cannot ban the planned ‘Kashmir Million March’ in London 'as it will be against the principles of free speech espoused by Britain', a news report said on Friday.
Details have emerged that Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister (EAM) of India, met British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last week here and raised concerns with him about the march, which will be led by former Pakistan-administered Kashmir prime minister Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhary and other Kashmiri leaders.
The British PM was told that the issue of Indian-controlled Kashmir was a “matter between India and Islamabad and such a rally would be against an open society”. Swaraj told Clegg that the ‘Kashmir Million March’ doesn’t “bode well for the relationship between the two countries” but the deputy PM told her that the march cannot be stopped, The News International said.
Clegg told the Indian minister that he appreciated her concerns but the rally in London will not be banned as it will be against the principles of free speech espoused by Britain, the report said.
He told the Indian minister that Britain greatly valued its relations with India but will not go against a democratic march which is expected to bring thousands of Kashmiris to the streets of London on Sunday.
India is taking this march so seriously that Prime Minister David Cameron was also asked about the ‘Kashmir Million March’ during an interview with a leading Indian channel but the PM refused to be drawn into the controversy. Cameron, however, said that Indo-Pak ties were a “bilateral issue” and the UK “wanted to see good relations between India and Pakistan”. The PM said that the UK didn’t want to see “any incursions across the Line of Control” and “its important that India and Pakistan have those coversations”. But Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson of Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said that it’s “normal for open societies to have platforms where people express their opinions”.
He went on: “However, at times these platforms are misused by enemies of open societies and its for those open societies to ensure that nothing is done which is inimical to their interests.”
The Indian irritation with the march was further evident when occupied Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that the “Million March” should have been held in the valley rather than the “cozy capitals of the United States and United Kingdom”.
“I have no problem in these people propounding an ideology but it would be better doing it from here rather than cozy environs of London, Washington, Paris and places like that,” Omar told reporters.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has also objected to the “Kashmir Million March” which coincides with the day when the then ruler of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession of the state with India against the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
BJP Kashmiri spokespersons Sunil Sethi and Balbir Ram Rattan said that those organsing the march in London were “anti nationals and divisive forces”.
Barrister Sultan Mahmood said that India doesn’t need to panic over the march and should show grace by not trying to arm-twist the UK government. “This march is independent and being organised by the Kashmiris who want to expose the barbaric face of India before the western world. Thousands had marched against Israel in London over the Gaza bombings. More than 120,000 Kashmiris have been massacred by India and India has acted worse than Israel but its crimes have not been exposed before the civilised world. This cannot go on. India must be held accountable.”
Veteran Kashmiri campaigner Hameed Pothi said that the UK government was aware that British Kashmiris are pro-democracy and peace-loving people who have taken part in the UK politics actively. “The UK govt is very much aware of the role of British Kashmiris and will never bow before the Indian pressure. India thinks that it can use its economic clout to suppress its dark deeds but that policy has failed and we will not rest until India is fully exposed.”