Kashmir-EU Week in EU Parliament (2013)
Any effort recognized by a number of EU parliamentarians and local media, especially for a call of peace and rights, is seen as a step forward for its impacts on the opinion making as well as decision making at one of the highest forums of the world; the EU parliament. The small and big halls, glittering corridors, shining cabins and glowing media corners of this building are capable of making ripples at every level of the world community. Though, it has become a skill in itself to shake the overly personalities and institutions of EU. Not everybody or every organization succeeds in this difficult task.
The Kashmir conflict, however, is increasingly seen as one of the major failures or helplessness on the part of EU institution. The obduracy of the state of India, along with its growing economic strength and diplomatic clout has been instrumental in putting this issue at the back burner and calling it a lost cause of human rights or justice.
It is not an unimportant fact that apart from numerous resolutions by UN and numerous quality publications by highly reputed international human rights forums, the EU parliament has itself issued a strong resolution calling for the transparent investigations of the issue of mass graves and disappearances. Needless to say, the voice of conscience had been losing space against the might of the economics and diplomacy. The tireless efforts, however, don’t go waste. There are so many influential personalities and forums that are still ready to give witness for the justice.
One such personality is the member of EU parliament, Mr. Sajjad Haider Karim and another one is Ali Raza Syed, the chairman of International Council for Human Development (ICHD).Both of them, co-hosted the third Kashmir-EU week in EU parliament, which has been applauded as one of the most impressively organized event for the promotion of the human rights, freedom and justice for the hapless nation of Kashmir.
The event attracted a significant attention both by international and local media. The first day of the event which was attended by delegates from all over the world who presented their interventions and presentations that highlighted the reasons for resolving the issue of Kashmir in the perspective of its potential of becoming a major reason for a war between three nuclear armed countries which abut the borders of Kashmir. The presentation of delegates emphasized that because of the reason that three nuclear armed countries have their own claims and counter claims to the disputed area of Kashmir ,war in a the region must be averted and it can only be done through resolution of the dispute of Kashmir. The delegates were of unanimously agreed that sustenance of durable peace is must for the region for which the international community especially the EU must take concrete steps to resolve the issue.
In his opening speech Mr. Sajad Karim said that it is unacceptable that human rights clause about Kashmir that was included in the report of European Parliament regarding India EU trade talks were not emphasized to the full extent. Daniele Caroile, the member of Belgum Parliament member in her address said that we must make a positive effort in resolving the issue of Kashmi, Marjan Lucas, expert on Kashmir affairs, and Sadia Mir, expert and policy analyst focused on the issue of mass graves and disappeared persons in occupied Kashmir, pointing out the Indian government’s recent refusal to conduct the DNA tests of the dead bodies. The speakers said that India was ridiculing the international community especially the EU parliament’s resolution of 10th of July 2008, which called for the transparent investigations from the Indian authorities. Marjan Lucas said that 10,000 were mostly innocent civilians. Sadia Mir said that the resumption of Bolly Wood movies did not mean that the Kashmiris had forgotten their right to self determination.
The launch of the exhibition on 25 September, however, proved to be a memorable success in terms of attendance, content of the deliberations, event organization and media response. The full house attendance of seminar, “Peace in South Asia: One Million One Million Signature Campaign” at 14:00pm in EU parliament attracted speakers Like Marjan Lucas, the moderator, Sajjad Haider Karim, host of the seminar, Danielle Caron, MBP, Farooq Siddiqui and Surraya Siddiqui, veteran Kashmiri activists living in Canada, author and researcher, Laura Schuurman and Ali Raza Syed, chairman of ICHD. Sajjad Karim welcomed the participants including diplomats, journalists, civil society organizations and especially women; he thanked them all by saying that the event was a concerted effort, third of its kind in last three years. He criticized the EU institutions for not being able to raise the Kashmir issue at full capacity only not to angry India. He said it was a failure of moral values and high standards of impartiality over strategic economic interests.
Laura Schuurmans gave brief note on the origins of the conflict while saying that a paradise, imprisoned; Kashmir was suffering high presence of security forces that had created a constant atmosphere of terror to crippling their collective life. She said that Kashmiris were living under severe state violence. Responding to a question, she pointed out pulling out the 700,000 strong security forces, removing the black laws as notorious Safety Acts and including Kashmiris in any decision related to them were first few steps to create positive atmosphere of the sustainable solution of the issue. Sadia Mir termed UN capacity to implement its resolutions and laws as the most important step. She said ecology of Kashmir was the silent casualty of Kashmir conflict as 51% forests had been reduced to 20%. She said the trend, if continued, shall cause ecological unbalance in the region.
Farooq Siddiqui said the world had to stop seeing Kashmir issue in terms of the Indo-Pak conflict. The Kashmir should be seen as an independent issue concerning the international peace and moral standards. “A nation has been divided and rendered powerless without the right to self determination and right to even life without fear. Danielle Caron said Kashmir was very close to her heart as she went there at the time to earthquake and this year for a project to build houses for the homeless. She said the immense beauty of Kashmir should respond to the peace, growth and good governance. She said it was a must for the growth of the region as Kashmir held the water resources of the entire region.
Surraya Siddiqui questioned why international opinion is still not aware of the basic facts of the Kashmir. She said by now they should have been putting forward concrete steps instead of awareness building. She recounted her personnel experiences of agony with numerous police tortures and the arrest her husband. She pointed out Kashmir as the living hell for Kashmiris. Ali Raza Syed thanked the speakers and the participants and explained the initiative of One Million Signature Campaign. He said that EU mechanisms allowed the citizens to raise the awareness at maximum level while trying to bring it on the EU agenda. He reiterated that their efforts to bring self determination in Kashmir should be seen in the context of peace in the South Asia. He said refusal of conducting DNA tests of the bodies discovered from mass graves was an ample proof that they were innocent civilians killed extra judicially by security forces protected by draconian laws. The speakers and participants highly praised the quality of the documentary made on the ICHD by the team of volunteers of ICHD.
Later in the evening, a launching ceremony of the exhibition (paintings/photographs/handicrafts/books) was organized in EU parliament. The paintings were sent by the acclaimed painter of Pakistan, Ms. Jamila Saghri who could not attend the event because of her personal engagements. Her contribution, however, added emotional strength to the intellectual content of the entire event. She painted the beauty and elegance of the Kashmir women and children while depicting deep sorrow in their eyes. Her work was highly appreciated by the visitors.
Addressed by, Jean Lambert, MEP, Ivo Vajgl, MEP, Tunne Kelam, MEP and member of the committee of foreign affairs, Elmar Brok, chairman of the foreign affair committee, Sajjad Haider Karim, Farooq Siddiqui, Laura Schuurmans and Ali Raza Syed. Conducted by Sadia Mir, the event was launched by Mr. Sajjad Karim who welcomed the participants introduced the objectives behind displaying such magnificently designed exhibitions. He spoke highly of the ICHD team for putting up such a comprehensive and inspiring exhibition. MEP Jean Lambert voiced her concerns for the people of Kashmir an issue she has been working on. She said that she fully supported the initiative behind the resolutions. She wanted that steps be taken to support the Kashmiris by having parliament implement the resolutions.
MEP Ivo Vajgl pointed out that a year had gone by since the last Kashmir EU event week and nothing has been done by Parliament to implement the resolutions which was drafted by the MEPs present today. He said that was not acceptable that the issue of Kashmir needed support 'we the MEPs must work towards new resolutions so that there are developments in implementing them.'
MEP Tunne Kelam who is on the committee of foreign affairs recalled his Masters Research paper which was on the Kashmir conflict. He said already 65 years had passed and nothing has changed. He compared the conflict in Kashmir to the history of Estonia and their struggle for freedom from Soviet occupation. He spoke very strongly saying that the European MEPs must use the instruments of the European Parliament in order to bring the Kashmir agenda to a forefront and now pressurize the parliament to implement the resolution. Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Mr. Elmar Brok spoke to Chairman of ICHD Ali Raza Syed and was present. Gary Titly, former MEP also participated to show his support. Finally Chairman Ali Raza Syed thanked MEP Sajjad Karim and his office and all the participants for keeping the Kashmir cause and Mass graves issue on the agenda of the European Parliament.
The event was a great inspiration for the expatriate Kashmiris and Pakistanis. Many of them spoke passionately in favor of the Kashmiri’s rights and the peace in South Asia. And that corresponded well to the overall emphasis of the organizers as well. “Our major strength is that we are lobbying and struggling for the rights of the nation of Kashmir with a positive approach. We are not against any country or its people; rather we are promoting the cause of peace in the world. Our dream is that South Asia also become as prosperous and as peaceful as Europe”, said Ali Raza Syed.