The British Parliament on Monday, 26th Oct 2015 witnessed a historic seminar commemorating the 68th year of the signing of the Instrument of Accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India by Maharaja Hari Singh. Jointly organised by the Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society and Voice of Dogras, the seminar was supported by the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus led by the Chair, Bob Blackman MP. It was the first ever attempt in the UK that saw the coming together of Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) and Dogras from Jammu in highlighting the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India in 1947 and the ratification of this decision in 1954 in the state assembly establishing the finality of the decision made by Maharaja Hari Singh.
The seminar saw a packed room with representation from across the Jammu & Kashmir region as also many supporters from India and abroad. In attendance were Bob Blackman MP, Chair APPG for British Hindus who hosted the seminar along with Lord Popat of Harrow, Virendra Sharma MP – Vice Chair, APPG for British Hindus & Chair, APPG for India, P K Patel, First Secretary, High Commission of India and various community leaders and representatives.
Bob Blackman MP who hosted and Chaired this educative and informative seminar at the House of Commons welcomed the initiative: “I am proud to be hosting the commemoration of the 68th Anniversary of the Signing of the Instrument of Accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India by Maharaja Hari Singh at the British Parliament as the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus, set up especially to provide a voice to the British Hindu community. The seminar is the first such attempt to educate the parliamentarians and members of the community on the history of Jammu & Kashmir. It establishes the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and has been since 1947.”
The evening saw the release of a White Paper on History of Jammu & Kashmir: Instrument of Accession describing what the document was and the various events surrounding the signing of the legal documentation that acceded Jammu & Kashmir to India. Congratulating the organisers, Virendra Sharma MP said, “this is an important seminar and an act of remembrance for Jammu & Kashmir’s accession to India. 68 years ago history was made, but sadly the roots of the longstanding conflict between India and Pakistan were laid too. Only by understanding why there is conflict can we hope to end it for our future generations.”
Leading the commemoration Lakshmi Kaul, Founder of Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society highlighted the significance and need for conducting this seminar in the UK: “In the UK as well as other parts of Europe there is a growing anti-India lobby that is making people believe that ‘Kashmiris’ want the right of self-determination. This lobby has targeted and attempted to eliminate the very identity of any other minority communities in the region. Infact they do not acknowledge the state in totality but only refer to the Pakistan Occupied Jammu Kashmir area calling out for independence. This misinformed narrative needs to be rectified and the facts need to be laid out. The seminar and commemoration is only a joint attempt by communities from the region of Jammu & Kashmir to state that the state is an integral part of the dominion of India and has been since 1947. This decision was final and was ratified in the state assembly in 1954 making it legal and by the people’s will. Since its accession, J&K and its people have participated whole heartedly in the democratic process of India and there is no reason for it to change now. The historical and legal evidence has been outlined in the white paper to dispel the myths surrounding the complex history of J&K.”
There was an upbeat celebration in the British Parliament with energetic, educative and well-rounded informative speeches by Prof Harbans Singh, Jammu based senior academic and author of the famous book, “The Troubled Years” and Anmol Ganjoo, the grandson of late Justice Ganju who was the first intellectual in Kashmir mercilessly targeted and killed at the hands of Islamist separatists during the 1989-90 exodus. Also speaking was Retd Col Pradeep Saxena, who having served three tenures in J&K gave an insight into the terrain, topography and physical difficulty of armed forces operations in the region.
Prof. Harbans Singh Sambyal spoke at length on the misconceptions surrounding the background of the Accession. He explained the diversity of the State in geographical, cultural and religious aspects making the decision to accede to one or the other dominion difficult. He added, “The State had been peaceful for a century till Pakistan who depended on communal polarization stoked communal violence at the border. The hordes of refugees coming into the State incited further communal frenzy. The Maharaja wanted to wait to take a decision in calmer times but Pakistan jumped the gun and attacked Jammu Kashmir. Maharaja Hari Singh knew that if the minorities of the State had to be protected, the Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs of the Valley, Buddhists of Laddakh and Hindus from Jammu Jammu Kashmir must accede to India which had adopted a secular Constitution. Hence the accession was the only, just and final decision.”
Anmol Ganju highlighted the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits putting the exodus of 1990 in the context of the continuing persecution and attacks in the name of religion by Islamist fundamentalists. “To curb this attack on humanity, we need to identify and address the root cause of it. The successful attempt to change the demography of the state especially the Kashmir region and subsequently demanding for independence and passing it up as the ‘will of the Kashmiri people’ is a cunning plan executed by Pakistan. What happened to my late Grandfather is not still unheard of and many others are being persecuted even today. This needs to stop and justice needs to be delivered.”
The organisers view the commemoration as not only a step towards educating the misinformed discourse on Jammu & Kashmir but as an opportunity for bringing communities together therefore driving the integrated and united “one voice for one cause” narrative. Says Manu Khajuria, Founder of Voice of Dogras, “Commemoration of Accession Day in UK Parliament today was not only a day of historical and strategic importance with the potential to change the discourse but it also set the ball rolling for community building. It not only gave face to the Dogras bringing them together in UK, but it also brought two key stakeholders and minorities the KPs and Dogras together. All Nationalists celebrated the day when J&K constitutionally and irrevocably became a part of the Indian Union.”
The commemoration brought together members of various regions of Jammu & Kashmir, primarily the Dogras and Kashmiri Pandits as also those from other parts of the country. Rahul Angre, a member of the team and who hails from Maharashtra says, “For me the whole journey so far has been so enriching and overwhelming in more ways than one. The process of putting the event together, being a part of a team, the location of the event itself that left first timers like myself nothing less than mesmerised. The event was so well received by all globally that it gave me a sense of achievement and satisfaction further motivating many like me to take this initiative forward.”
Hundreds of messages of support were received by the organisers including those from the veterans, senior activists and celebrities including actor, director & teacher Anupam Kher, media guru & activist Sushil Pandit, Senior Journalist Aditya Raj Kaul, author of the book “Our Moon Has Blood Clots” Rahul Pandita, President of the Jammu & Kashmir Ex-Services League Maj Gen Goverdhan Singh Jamwal and members of the family of late Maharaja Hari Singh including his son & memer of the upper house of Indian Parliament Dr. Karan Singh and grandson & MLC Jammu State Assembly Vikramaditya Singh. Some of these messages were read out at the commemoration at the British Parliament making this celebration even more special and inclusive.
Citizens of Jammu Kashmir commemorate the Accession of Jammu Kashmir to India, in the House of Commons, London.
Posted by Redefining Jammu on Monday, October 26, 2015