Asia - Pacific

Kashmir conference focuses on unity in Muslim ranks

Ankara-based charity holds international conference to discuss Kashmir dispute with spotlight on humanitarian issues

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 16.10.2019
Kashmir conference focuses on unity in Muslim ranks


Unity among Muslims is a pre-requisite to take the community out of the many conflicts around the world, including Kashmir, said speakers at an international conference Tuesday in Ankara.

The Jammu and Kashmir conference was organized by Turkey’s Cansuyu Charity and Solidarity Organization.

Temel Karamollaoglu, president of the Saadet (Felicity) Party, said Palestine and Kashmir are "parallel" because there was discrimination against Muslims.

"Kashmir has very strong foundations," he said, referring to UN Security Council resolutions.

"India, which is an occupying force, has itself taken into consideration the UN resolutions that Kashmiris have to decide their future, but 70 years have passed and they have not decided it yet".

Referring to the Aug. 5 decision of the Indian government to scrap the special status of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, Karamollaoglu said: "[Narendra] Modi successfully won [2019] elections but has lost his reason by violating international laws and treaties".

From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a special status under the Indian Constitution which allowed it to enact its own laws.

The provisions also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.

Jammu and Kashmir have been under a near-complete lockdown since the Indian government scrapped its special status.

India has also blocked communication access and imposed restrictions on movement to thwart any protests in the region.

Several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.

India said that 93% of the restrictions have been eased in the conflict-ridden region, a claim that Anadolu Agency could not independently verify.

Karamollaoglu said that although the Indian government’s move invited sharp criticism and international condemnation, "it was not enough".

Revive D-8

"Unfortunately, all these things are [pitted] against Muslims, but we are divided," he said, calling for the revival of the D-8 grouping of Muslim states to strengthen the Muslim voice.

The D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation, also known as the Developing-8, aims to develop cooperation among Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey.

"Unfortunately, Islamic world has become enemies with each other, but they are friends with the U.S. and Israel," he said.

"The world needs justice, and a feeling of togetherness is fundamental to our faith. We have to keep the feeling for Kashmir alive. This is the minimum we can do," he said, adding Pakistan is one of the strongest countries in the D-8.

"How can we [other members] be silent on Kashmir?"

"Turkey is together with Kashmir, but we have to get further than this -- not just share solidarity with them," he added.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Turkey Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi put its weight behind the "unity motion", saying Muslims need to "rise above their internal differences, overcome our economic and political dependence on others and revive the great intellectual traditions of our civilization".

"While we must keep on pricking the conscience of the world on issues like Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir, the reality is that the Muslim Ummah is facing these challenges because of our own weaknesses and divisions," said Qazi, urging the realization of 11 UN resolutions to give the right to self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

"South Asia is on the brink of conflict because of India’s indifference," he warned.

Recai Kutan, president of Ankara-based Economic and Social Research Center, said it was the British empire which sowed the seeds of "fitnah" in the Indian subcontinent.

Explaining the historic roots of the Kashmir dispute, Kutan emphasized on strengthening the D-8.

Divided Kashmir

Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly lawmaker and chairperson of the Muzaffarabad-based All Parties Kashmir Council, Abdul Rashid Turabi, said the reason behind India’s occupation of Muslim-majority Kashmir is to “negate the ideology of Pakistan.”

"And since 1947, it has been the policy of India to push Muslims out of the disputed region," he said, referring to the Jammu massacre of 1947.

He said following India’s Aug. 5 move, "the situation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir [AJK] is very volatile, as thousands of people are holding a sit-in protest to cross the Line of Control to join their brothers and sisters in Indian-occupied Kashmir".

"The pain is deep; 16 out of 49 members of the AJK assembly have their families divided between two Kashmirs," he added.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

Cemal Demir, president of the Istanbul-based South Asia Strategic Research Center (GASAM), said there was a communication gap among Muslims in the subcontinent.

"This fault line among Muslims has been exploited by Hindu nationalists, and that it is why this government in India arrived at the Aug. 5 decision," he said.

"A parallel Israeli plan is being implemented in Kashmir," he alleged, warning about the rise of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a rightwing Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization that is widely regarded as the parent organization of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Urging immediate attention toward necessary and emergency healthcare in Kashmir, Dr. Nedim Choudhary said hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris have been killed since 1947.

"And in the recent past, mass graves have been found in Kashmir with 7,000-8,000 people buried in these graves, and no one knows their identities," he said.

He said India was using pellet guns to blind Kashmiris and "many others have been paralyzed while over 13,000 were raped".

Photo exhibition showcases Kashmir situation

Earlier, before the start of the conference, an expanded photo exhibition showcasing the current situation in Kashmir was inaugurated.

On the sidelines of the conference, Kashmiri human rights activist Nasir Qadri said India has "robbed Kashmir of everything" after Aug. 5.

"Kashmiris need to think out of box, and what is going on in Kashmir right now is nothing less than civil disobedience," he said.

"Kashmir is witnessing a brutal and ugly phase, and most of the rights violations go unreported," he alleged.

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