Diaspora is understood as a community living in foreign territories that retains a degree of historical, economic or political linkages to its co-ethnics/religionists in the parent state. Kashmiri Diaspora and the unrest in Kashmir create a bizarre synergy, which is generally overlooked in scholarly perspectives. A historical approach to diaspora roles can be understood by India’s efforts to fight against British by mobilising diaspora communities. Trends of external support to anti India movements by diasporic communities have considerably risen lowing the end of Cold War politics, as major powers have considerably reduced their involvement in insurgent activities taking place in foreign lands. Theoretically and practically, the support of such geographically and sociologically distant populations is found to increase the longevity and fortitude of self-determination movements.
Kashmiri Diaspora support to create anti India movements is usually extended in the form of political lobbying, fund-raising, foreign remittances and assistance to locals in fleeing the parent state for settling abroad.
Kashmiri diaspora is a spatially scattered and ideologically diverse community. It consists of three different groups: Kashmiri Muslims, Kashmiri Pandits and Mirpuri Muslims. A considerable number of Kashmiri Muslims have migrated from Jammu and Kashmir to the Pakistan Administered Kashmir since 1947 partition, however, a large-scale migration was experienced following the 1965 India-Pakistan war. An overwhelming majority of Kashmiri diaspora consists of Mirpuri Kashmiris who migrated from Pakistan to different western states (predominantly the UK) during the 1990s, resulting from internal displacements caused by the construction of Mangla Dam. Kashmiri Pandits are said to have migrated from Kashmir post-1989 Kashmir Insurgency resulting into mass exodus of Pandits from the valley.
Mirpuri Muslims, belonging to the Pakistan Administered Kashmir, form the largest chunk of Kashmiri diaspora abroad. Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits, coming from the Indian-held Kashmir, constitute smaller proportions of the Kashmiri diaspora. A major proportion of the Kashmiri diaspora is settled in the United Kingdom (UK). Other than UK, the Kashmiri diaspora is also located in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Kashmiri diaspora’s first tangible association was in Birmingham in 1977 which led to the formation of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). The JKLF traced its root to Kashmir and was/is anti india group. Diasporic activism was concentrated in the UK and remained monopolised by the JKLF until the 1990s. It is no news that JKLF is the same party that was headed by Yasin Malik and I need not remind you the activities his party was engaged in. The JKLF played a major role in turning Kashmir into hell in 90s. Currently, the JKLF is headquartered in Luton, England. However, it has lost much relevance due to leadership crisis and factionalism. But it is not something that we should ignore, the funds are still generated and reach out to Kashmir from England. We shouldn’t be complacent just because Yasin Malik is lodged in a jail.
The most prominent Kashmiri diasporic organisations pursuing the anti India policies include Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party and United Kashmir People’s National Party.
While Kashmiri diaspora was already active, the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in August last year, has given them a renewed vigour. Kashmiri diaspora has taken to different platforms, registering its protest outside the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York and the UN office at Geneva. Most recently, the Indian Republic Day was marked protests across different cities of the USA, UK, and Canada. It should be noted that Kashmiri Diaspora enjoys good relations with pro Khalistan factions of Indian Diaspora and both use each other as and when required to instigate sentiments in India and Kashmir.
Following the revocation of Article 370, the mainstream and social media have become key platforms that allow Kashmiri diaspora to reach global audiences. Attributing to strict lockdown in Kashmir, the international and regional media outlets turned to Kashmiri diaspora to gain information about Kashmiris under lockdown. Different social networking websites like Twitter and Instagram have also been employed to propagate hate against India. Post 5 August 2019, social media movements like the “Red Dot Movement,” “Red for Kashmir” and “Bleed for Kashmir” accelerated and became social media trends.
Kashmiri diaspora has relied on soft tactics+ Funding through dozens of NGO’s that open up in Kashmir for deploying the hate against India. The mobilisation of Kashmiri diaspora has played a key role in defining the global false narrative of Kashmir issue. The issue has been internationalised like never before, which comes to the credit of the Kashmiri diaspora apart from Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts as well as the ISI’s cunning tactics.
A reception in honour of Tehreek-e-Kashmir TeK (UK) Raja Fahim Kayani was hosted in Pakistan’s Kashmir by Bajwa, Fahim who was on his two-day visit to POK to express the solidarity with the people of Our side of Kashmir.
In the reception, the installed president of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Supreme Court Bar association said “We welcome you and your team working round the clock in UK but it is also necessary to provide the printed material to the world human rights organisations and other institutions to update them about the mass human rights violations in IOJ&K.”
Fahim in this meeting revealed, “Our party in the UK and Europe chapter decided to stage anti-India protests and in this connection we approached the diaspora aimed to motivate them to come out on roads in London and in different countries of Europe.”
Kayani went on to say that besides the anti-India protests “we approached members of the British Parliament to speak on the issue and we succeeded” in it. “Dozens of MPs wrote to the British government to take notice of the human rights violations in IOK.”
Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement (JKSM) Chairman and senior Hurriyat leader Altaf Ahmad Bhat referred the TeK UK as the only voice of voiceless Kashmiris at the international level by saying: “We are indebted to TeK UK and its President Kayani who devoted his whole life for the Kashmir cause is the real hero of Kashmiris’ right to self-determination movement at the international level.”
Altaf Ahmad Bhat said, “The diaspora is even ready to spend their own money for the Kashmir freedom struggle and that must be encouraged.”
Later in April this year, Tehreek-e-Kashmir TeK UK organized an International Tele Conference to address the present situation in Kashmir.
Altaf Ahmad Bhat, senior Hurriyat leader and president Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement (JKSM) addressing the conference from Islamabad urged the Human Rights organizations to play their respective role in Kashmir.
President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Sardar Masood Khan said that people of Kashmir are ruthlessly being killed by Indian Army in fake encounters. World should take notice of the genocide of Kashmiris and help to release thousands of Kashmiris languishing in different jails in India. Modi government is not taking any notice of the orders issued by the United Nations for the safety of prisoners during the coronavirus pandemic which is unfortunate.
Further peddling lies to innocent Kashmiris and world Shadow Minister Afzal Khan MP said that in occupied Kashmir one doctor is for four thousand people and one ventilator is available for 17 thousand people which shows how medical staff is ill equipped in Kashmir to tackle the Covid-19. Moreover, one Indian soldier is on 10 Kashmiris while medical facilities are unsatisfactory and If Covid-19 spreads fastly in IOJ&K the people will die there like cattle.
Shaista Safi a human rights activist from Kashmir said that Covid-19 lock down is being used by Indian establishment to change the demography of Kashmir and silent the media. “People are still waiting to get Covid-19 test kits and testing speed has deliberately been kept slow in IOJ&K than the rest of India,” Safi added. Shaista and her likes are few who are creating the anti india narrative that is propagated by the journalists in Kashmir and then the liberal lobby in Delhi. These Diasporic communities are well aware that india is divided and that nationalism is the death of Ghazwa-e-Hind, but their hopes like Pakistan’s rest on the liberal front and the elements within India. A fine example is that of Tony Ashai who spits venom against India and hoped to Rahul Gandhi to be the PM for a free Kashmir. The two have met as well. Tony however is irrelevant to most Kashmiris as he is considered an opportunist who would build homes over the graves of Kashmiris. Tony also enjoys good relations with Shahrukh Khan & Gauri Khan, but that doesn’t imply or state anything else other than the influence these lie promoters and hate mongers enjoy and use against us.
I think the road ahead lies in blocking the Diasporic content in India like we have done with the Sikh Diaspora websites that instigate or propagate hate. There are many websites like Free Kashmir Org that collect donations to promote hate and social media movements against India. The last thing that india can do is to rest and underestimate the Diaspora and its role in keeping Kashmir burning