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Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour faces more opposition over party’s Kashmir resolution

Over 100 Indian community organisations on Monday wrote to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, expressing dismay at the party’s recent annual conference passing a resolution on Jammu and Kashmir that was dismissed by New Delhi as ‘unfounded’.

Labour MPs of Indian origin and others with large number of voters from the community have faced a backlash over the resolution seen as anti-India. Corbyn last week admitted that the wording of the resolution was open to misinterpretation as being hostile to India.

The organisations that included the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, National Council of Hindu Temples and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (UK) said their “members do not take party political positions and include members of all parties and none.”

The growing protest from large sections of the 1.5-million strong Indian community is significant in the history of British politics. Rarely have so many community organisations made their views known on any single issue, putting one of the two main parties on the back foot before an election.

Their letter said: “At a time when Brexit has already created deep divisions within our country, the last thing we need is to further divide communities within the United Kingdom whilst destroying our diplomatic relations with the world’s largest democracy”.

“We are particularly dismayed by the virulent reaction by the Labour party to the removal of an outdated, temporary provision that was hindering development in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir…progress, human rights, and values which we would have expected the Labour party to stand for”.

The signatory organisations wrote that they are “hugely concerned” with attempts to bring the Kashmir issue into Britain’s domestic politics, which has serious implications for community harmony. They referred to recent violence outside Indian House in this context.

As the Labour Friends of India group and others criticised the resolution, Corbyn wrote to the group last week: “The emergency motion on Kashmir came through as part of the democratic process of the Labour party conference”.

“However, there is a recognition that some of the language used within it could be misinterpreted as hostile to India and the Indian Diaspora. Labour understands the concerns the Indian community in Britain has about the situation in Kashmir and takes these concerns very seriously.”

“The Labour Party is committed to ensuring the human rights of all citizens of Kashmir are respected and upheld. This remains our priority and I agree that we should not allow the politics of the sub-continent to divide communities here in Britain,” he wrote.

Corbyn went on to stress the need to build on the “historically good relationship” with India and the Indian diaspora, and offered to meet the lobby group to hear views on the issue from members across the Indian community.

The party’s emergency resolution on Kashmir is not available on the party’s website, but senior Labour MPs Virendra Sharma and Keith Vaz called for its recall and an investigation into the procedure that led to it being passed at the annual conference.

The resolution that riled many said: “The conference urges the Labour party to ask Jeremy Corbyn or ensure someone from the Labour party is represented to attend the UNHRC to demand the restoration of basic human rights including the freedom of speech and communication, the lifting of curfews, and to allow the humanitarian aid organisation and international observers to enter the region.”

Reacting to the resolution, the MEA spokesperson said in New Delhi on September 26: “Government has noted certain developments at the Labour Party Conference on September 25 pertaining to the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“We regret the uninformed and unfounded positions taken at this event. Clearly, this is an attempt at pandering to vote-bank interests. There is no question of engaging with the Labour Party or its representatives on this issue.”