CONCERNS over Kashmir were raised at a special meeting in Brierfield on Saturday which included a lord, two MPs, an MEP and people involved in the campaign to gain its independence.
In 1947, what had been a princely state became a disputed territory thanks to the British Government and three parts of it are controlled by three different countries – India, Pakistan, and China. And there has been trouble between India and Pakistan over the issue.
A ceasefire was ruled by the United Nations on January 5th, 1949, so Saturday was an appropriate day for the meeting.
In the mid-1990s, a campaign was established in Pendle to try and get the country reunited and independent. Pendle Council was involved and set up a Kashmir Working Group.
In February, 1999, a visit to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir was organised by the council. It included councillors, council staff, educationists, journalists, health and care workers and others.
They visited Muzaffarabad – high on the mountains – which was hit by a tragic earthquake six years later.
But the battle to reunite and free Kashmir is still going on. And an event was held at the Brierfield People’s Centre on Saturday, including representatives from the Jammu and Kashmir Self-Determination Movement. People who had been on the 1999 trip were invited to attend.
Guests were welcomed by Mr Mohammed Aslam and the event was chaired by former Pendle Council leader Alan Davies, who played a key role in the Kashmir issue in the 1990s and went on the trip to Pakistan and Kashmir.
Mr Adbullah Zaid, who had a key role with the group set up in Pendle, led prayers and readings from the Qur’an, then praised Mr Davies for the work he did. “Alan is very close to our hearts,” he said. “We are very grateful and indebted to him.”
Mr Davies gave a history of the organisation – which was based on the fact that Kashmir people were living in Pendle – and the trip in 1999. He made it clear the trip had been a “subject of great controversy” including letters in newspapers. And he pointed out that people in Kashmir were deprived of all possessions. “Let all the people of all Kashmir decide their future.”
Mr Raja Najabat Hussain, chairman of the Self-Determination Movement, thanked everyone for joining them and explained the history. “We are not working with any particular party or group,” he explained. “We are looking for some progress.”
And its secretary general, Mr Mohammed Azam, gave full details of the proposals aimed at making Kashmir independent. These include:
l Peace and Justice, including withdrawal of all military forces, freedom of political prisoners, and freedom of press, speeches and movements across Kashmir.
l Economy and development, including free trade across the state, access to international sales, sale of their products, etc.
l Human Rights and Civil Society, including taking back draconian laws, right groups, etc, international travel skills, and local human rights.
l Democracy and Good Governance, with the lifting of restrictions on peaceful political activities, formation of political parties.
They call on the British Government to champion this.
Burnley Liberal Democrat MP Mr Gordon Birtwistle said: "Nobody across the free world would accept what us going on in Kashmir. Why would people in Kashmir have to put up with it?” He would like the independence to be acquired by support from across the world.
A member of the public revealed 17 people had been killed in Kashmir last month and said: “The media is turning its eyes away from the issue.” But someone else said organising events would lead to publicity.
The Mayor of Pendle, Coun. Asjad Mahmood, made it clear it was a tragic problem. “Nobody has suffered more in the process that the people of Kashmir. Finding a solution to a problem like Kashmir is not an easy job.”
Labour’s Lord Nazir Ahmed was pleased to have been invited and made it clear he was working on the issue in the Lords and wanted to see freedom to speak out and freedom of people in Kashmir.
Pendle Conservative MP Andrew Stephenson pointed out he was just leaving secondary school when the 1999 visit took place and he added: "What I find more shocking is that since the visit 13 years ago, nothing much has changed."
He praised the roles of Lord Nazir and North-West MEP Sajjad Karim on the issue and he added: “We need everybody to play their role to raise this as an issue. We cannot tolerate the kind of abuses that have gone on in Kashmir for so long."
Conservative Mr Karim was delighted to be on the platform and said: "At the European Parliament there is some recognition of the fact that there is a huge issue regarding Kashmir."
But he is surprised that a significant population in other parts of Europe are not raising the issue. "If you have any links to other European communities, ask them to speak to their MEPs!"
Joint organiser Mr Saghir Ahmed gave a vote of thanks and praised the work Abdullah had done. He was presented with a shield.