‘Speaking with One Voice” is the theme of the eighth Kashmir-EU Week that took place in the European Parliament, Brussels 14th- 18th September.
An event that brought together academics, NonGovernmental Organisations (NGOs), experts and parliamentarians from Europe and Kashmir. Its aim: to raise public awareness in Europe of the 68-year-old conflict in Kashmir and persuade Europeans legislators to engage in promoting a negotiated settlement. Debate revolved around two conferences: “What really is the way ahead”, led by Member of the European Parliament Sajjad Karim MEP (UK, ECR) who is hosting Kashmir-EU Week, and “Emerging shadows of war”, the opening speech by Farzana Ahmed, Minister for Social Welfare and Women’s Development in the Azad Kashmir administration.
“Ordinary Europeans have little or no knowledge of the situation there and MEPs’ engagement is enhanced by such awareness raising,“ says Sajjad Karim. Human rights violations: murder, rape, disappearances, torture, the use of pellet guns by the Indian authorities and lack of freedom of speech are everyday occurrences.
Khurram Parvez, a Kashmiri human rights activist draw attention to a recent report by the NGO, “Parents of Disappeared People.” It accuses 972 Indian officials of torture, rape, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. “Those responsible must be brought to justice,” says Ali Raza Syed, Chairman of Kashmir Council-EU, an NGO organising Kashmir-EU Week along with International Council for Human Development and the World Kashmir Diaspora Alliance.
“It is a tragic conflict where every passing hour brings misery to the people of Indian occupied Kashmir. The human cost of this tragedy is far too high; this conflict must have a just resolution, otherwise, it can provoke nuclear war and destruction,” says Ali Raza Syed. Particularly worrying, he says, is the recent withdrawal by India from National Security Adviser level negotiations with Pakistan.
“The World must take note and pressurise India to come back to the negotiating table to resolve all outstanding issue with Pakistan including the issue of Kashmir,” says Ali Raza Syed. Both the United Nations and European Parliament have already passed resolutions on the right of self-determination of Kashmiris.
Participants at Kashmir-EU Week draw up a final conference resolution that is expected to call on the EU to use its good relations with both India and Pakistan to encourage both countries to sit around the negotiating table.
‘I hope that by increasing people’s knowledge here of the situation in Kashmir, we can compel the EU to play a more active role in promoting a negotiated settlement which involves the people of Kashmir and resolve, this ongoing conflict once and for all, whilst eliminating the risk to the world as a whole of conflict between nuclear-armed neighbours,” says Sajjad Karim.
Running parallel to debate, the Kashmir exhibition is a display of Kashmiri crafts, weaving and needlework. It also features photographs on the theme of ‘Paradise Lost’, capturing through a lens beauty and promise contrasted by anguish and loss.
Another major event – a Youth Leadership Forum for Kashmiri students – will be organised by the Kashmir Council EU in the second week of January 2016. Its aim is to promote the highest standards of good governance in Kashmir – including within the civil service – and define a role for the future leadership in achieving a lasting solution to the conflict in the region. “The Forum will be an important means of highlighting the future leadership of Kashmir, “says President of Azad Kashmir, Yaqoob Khan. “ The Kashmir Council-EU is delighted at the level of interest in these initiatives,” says its Chairman, Ali Raza Syed