Liam Byrne (Hodge Hill’s MP) has asked the British parliamentarians support and campaign for the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir.
The British parliamentarian was speaking on the issue of Kashmir while being discussed in the House of Commons, the lower house of the United Kingdom’s parliament.
In his five-and-a-half minute speech, Liam Byrne asked the parliamentarians to campaign for the repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), ban on pellet guns, free movement of human rights groups throughout Kashmir; an investigation into mass graves and self-determination for the people of Kashmir.
Here’s the complete text of Liam Byrne’s speech during the debate on Kashmir:
It is a pleasure to follow the speech from Tom Brake, and I, too, congratulate Mr Nuttall on securing this debate. I am proud to have been a member of the all-party group on Kashmir for the 12 years I have been in the House and to have been a secretary to it in the past. I also pay tribute to the speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) and for Bradford East (Imran Hussain), who spoke with particular power.
When I look back on the 12 years I have campaigned on this issue in the House, I am afraid it is the lack of progress on which I have to remark, not on progress that is worth celebrating. Of course, there have been advances around border controls, trade and transport, but the truth is that today we are not one step closer to honouring that basic requirement set out in the UN mandate all those years ago to grant the right—not the privilege—of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. Over the 12 years, among our most urgent calls have been those for the free movement of human rights observers and the media throughout the area of Kashmir, and my goodness the events of the last six months have underlined why we were so right to call for that. The abuses perpetrated—with pellet guns, rape, chili powder—have maimed, scarred and destroyed lives, and not just among this generation; the memories of the abuse will cascade down the generations, and that will not make the solution or the arrival of peace happen any sooner; it will make it tougher and slower.
In particular, we have to ask ourselves why we have learned so much about these abuses not from the mainstream media but from social media. I pay tribute to those who had the courage to post news about the atrocities so that the world and we in this House could not look away. We could see it on our phones and on our screens. The BBC has at least started to produce some coverage, but it is of no comparison to the kind of coverage we used to see from South Africa when I was a teenager or of the kind we see from Israel and Palestine week in, week out. We have to call on our media organisations to give us the benefit of transparency so that the world might be forced to look at what is happening.
The moral arguments for a solution are pretty clear and have been well articulated this afternoon, and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr alluded to some of the geopolitical demands for a solution too. China’s new silk road strategy will see $4 trillion to $6 trillion of investment poured into the business of integrating the Eurasian landmass. Indeed, yesterday in Dagenham we celebrated the arrival of the first train direct from China. This great continent is changing, and relations between China and Pakistan are changing. If we get this right, there is a tremendous economic prize ahead, and the principal beneficiaries could well be India and Pakistan, but not if they continue to pour money, arms and troops into the most heavily defended and dangerous border on earth. That is why both sides now surely have an interest in a solution and why we in this House have a moral obligation to help push that solution forward.
I have been part of a group of people in the House who have argued for change for the last 12 years. It is time now for some honesty and candour about whether that political strategy is going to produce any more change or further advance in the 12 years ahead. I do not think it will. We in the House now have to look to other Parliaments around the world—in Europe, the developing world, the US—and begin to think about how we might construct an international alliance of parliamentarians to call for change. We all know about the limitations of the United Nations. It has not made a lot of progress in the last 50 or 60 years. Do we really believe it will make any more in the years ahead? Let us take direct action now, as parliamentarians, not on our own but in alliance with others who believe in the same things we do, and let us together campaign for some basic changes that we all want: the repeal of the special powers Act, which is in clear breach of the UN obligation to which India has signed up; a ban on pellet guns, which many hon. Members have called for this afternoon; free movement of human rights groups throughout Kashmir; an investigation into the 2,200 mass graves that we know are there; and, yes, finally, self-determination for the people of Kashmir.
We have to make a choice in this House about whether we stand on the side lines of this debate, as impotent bystanders, or whether we are to be protagonists for change, just as we were in South Africa and Burma. One of my constituents put it to me like this:
“People of Jammu Kashmir seek a peaceful resolution of the issue and want their country to become a bridge of peace not a bone of contention between India and Pakistan.”
We in the House should support the motion and that basic instinct.