London, September 25 : Seven Members of Parliament (MPs) of the UK’s ruling Conservative Party have re-launched a group named “The Conservative Friends of Kashmir”, with hopes of campaigning for self-determination in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and to highlight the siege of millions of Kashmiris by the Indian forces.
“We have re-launched. We campaign for self-determination and an end to human rights abuses in Kashmir and Jammu. There is growing support for our cause amongst Conservative MPs and activists. Follow us and our work!” said The Conservative Friends of Kashmir on their new Twitter handle.
The Tory MPs in the group include Paul Bristow, James Daly, Jack Brereton, Steve Baker, Mark Eastwood, Sarah Britcliffe and Antony Higginbotham. The MPs represent constituencies with significant Pakistani populations and all of them have been vocal in condemning the Indian occupation and human rights violations in the occupied territory. Brereton, Daly and Bristow are also members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPGK), which is chaired by Labour MP, Debbie Abrahams.
The move has sparked rage amongst Tory-supporting British Indians linked with extremist Hindutva groups including the RSS. The Conservative Friends of India (CFI), a front of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was the first to react angrily on re-launch.
The move has also led BJP linked Tory Indians to issue threats to the Conservative Party. Kuldeep Shekhawat, president of the Overseas Friends of BJP (UK), said: “Britain has no right to interfere in India’s internal matters.”
Lord Rami Ranger, a patron of the Conservative Friends of India, expressed his frustration saying “Kashmir is dividing the Conservatives.”
Meanwhile, the President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan, has welcomed the group and endorsed its statement. “We are immensely grateful to you for re-launching the Conservative Friends of Kashmir. Your voices shine ray of hope to the wounded Kashmiris in their darkest hours. Besieged, battered, disfranchised – they look towards you and your allies for justice,” the AJK President said on Twitter.