Facing backlash from its voters of Indian origin, the Labour Party of the United Kingdom has attempted to back away from its stance on Kashmir after condemning the Indian government for revoking the special status of the territory in September.
The Union government on August 5 revoked Article 370 and Article 35A from Kashmir, depriving it of the special status bestowed by the Constitution. It subsequently divided the erstwhile state into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The government’s move was accompanied by internet and telephone blackout in the region for security reasons.
The Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party in late September passed a motion at its annual conference that talked of a humanitarian crisis in Kashmir and advocated the right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir.
However, the move didn’t go down well with some sections of the Labour Party support. Labour voters of Indian descent protested the move, calling it “anti-Hindu” and “anti-Indian”. They subsequently urged Hindus in the UK to note vote for Corbyn’s party in the December general elections and switch their allegiance to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
Facing a backlash and with the upcoming general election less than a month away, the Labour Party is trying to defuse the row to lure back its British Hindu voters.
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery has acknowledged that the September resolution has “caused offence to some sections of the Indian diaspora.”
"We recognise that the language used in the emergency motion has caused offence in some sections of the Indian diaspora, and in India itself," the BBC quoted him as saying in a statement.
Lavery added: "We are adamant that the deeply felt and genuinely held differences on the issue of Kashmir must not be allowed to divide communities against each other here in the UK.
"Kashmir is a bilateral matter for India and Pakistan to resolve together by means of a peaceful solution which protects the human rights of the Kashmiri people and respects their right to have a say in their own future".
Lavery added that Labour was “opposed to external interference in the political affairs of any other country” — and would “not adopt any anti-India or anti-Pakistan position over Kashmir.”
First Published: IST