Kashmir dispute is the longest unresolved issue facing the world. The rights of the Kashmiri people to self-determination have been denied since the problem arose in October 1947. Unfortunately, there is little information about the dispute outside a core of Kashmiri activists and the people of Pakistan. The Toronto seminar was meant to break this situation by bringing together a vast array of speakers to highlight the issue.
November 24, 2013, 11:59 EST
At its core, the Kashmir dispute is not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan but about the fundamental right of the people to determine their own future. This was the message heard loud and clear at the Toronto Seminar on Kashmir yesterday.
Organized by the Friends of Kashmir Committee and the Canadian Council for Justice and Peace, the seminar was addressed by an array of speakers from different backgrounds.
Speakers highlighted the genesis of the Kashmir dispute, the devious role played by British colonial administrators in creating the problem and the several United Nations Security Council resolutions that call for a referendum to determine the wishes of the people.
James Clark of the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War emphasized that Canadians of Kashmiri background must reach out to student groups at college and university campuses. He said Kashmir must be made the subject of discussion to build grassroots support for the rights of the Kashmiri people.
In echoing these thoughts, Ken Stone of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War (also a member of Independent Jewish Voices), drew comparison with the suffering of the Palestinian people under Zionist occupation. He pointed out that the Palestinian question was far better known but the terrible plight of the Kashmiris had gone largely unnoticed. He urged the Friends of Kashmir Committee to publicize the terrible plight of the Kashmiris by contacting the editorial boards of media outlets and urging them to pay attention to this ongoing tragedy.
The Kashmiris’ rights recognized under International Law, their suffering a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, and their demand to hold a referendum to determine their future enshrined in several Security Council resolutions was addressed by Sid Lacombe of the Canadian Peace Alliance. He also said that the potential for a nuclear war between India and Pakistan made it imperative that the global community as well as civil society groups took note of this decades long tragedy and work toward its peaceful resolution.
Ali Mallah, former vice president of the Canadian Arab Federation, challenged the Muslims present to ask themselves why they had failed the people of Kashmir that have continued to suffer so much. He pointed to the terrible plight of the Ummah at the hands of the cowardly rulers that control the destiny of the 1.7billion Muslims.
Parallels between the plight of the Palestinian people and those in Kashmir were repeatedly made. Both problems date back to the same period in history and both are the product of British colonial intrigue.
Pakistani Consul General in Toronto Nafees Zakaria rounded up the seminar by briefly touching on the history of the Kashmir dispute and how the British had deliberately manipulated the boundaries in order to deprive Pakistan of Kashmir. He drew attention to the boundary award commission map, especially relating to Gurdaspur district that allowed Indian access to Kashmir thereby depriving Pakistan of its right.
He called the Kashmir dispute the unfinished business of partition and said Pakistan would continue to provide moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people.
Toronto is emerging as an important center for highlighting the Kashmir dispute. This is the result of activism of some Canadians of Kashmiri background and the fact that important contacts have been made with mainstream Canadian organizations.
The Friends of Kashmir Committee has also submitted a resolution on Kashmir to the Canadian Peace Alliance annual convention to be held in mid-January. Delegates from all across Canada would be present at the convention to discuss a whole range of topics.
For the first time in its history, the Kashmir issue will be on the CPA resolution agenda. The CPA held a session on Kashmir at its annual convention in 2010.
Slowly but surely, the plight of the Kashmiri people is making headway and bringing the issue to the attention of people that support freedom, justice and peace.