This Saturday, 5 August the British Kashmiri community will be staging a protest outside the Indian High Comisssion in central London over the treatment of leader Yasin Malik, who they fear could be sentenced to death in a sham court case. Activist Mahmood Faiz, who attended the Turkish Cypriot protest outside Waltham Forest Town Hall on 3 March 2022, wants British Turks to join them on Saturday and help amplify their voices.
T-VINE asked Mahmood Faiz, known as Faz to his friends, to explain the events in Kashmir and why their campaign was so urgent.
Tell us about your ethnic homeland of Kashmir
Kashmir is located in South Asia. It shares its borders with India, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan. The country measures approximately 68,000 sq. miles and has a population of 16 million.
Due to historical events, Kashmir is currently split into two. One part is called Azad Kashmir, which has its own elected Prime Minister, President, National Assembly, national flag and national anthem. It shares its currency and military with the neighbouring Muslim country of Pakistan.
The other part of Kashmir is known as Jammu and Kashmir. Its people are not free and the territory is claimed by India, despite Kashmiris not accepting this.
Things took a bad turn in Jammu and Kashmir in 2019, with Delhi seeking more and more control and clamping down on dissent. There was a backlash from ordinary Kashmiris and so on 15 August 2019, the Indian authorities ordered mass arrests.
Nearly 4,000 Kashmiris were arrested, including former chief ministers, local politicians, human rights activists, and journalists. Newspapers, TV stations, and even the internet was closed down. Essentially, India shut off the whole of Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of the world.
The Indian authorities banned human rights organisations such has Amnesty and Human Rights Watch from entering Jammu and Kashmir, so they could not bear witness to the events going on there.
Why is Yasin Malik so important to Kashmiris?
One of the leading Kashmiri activists from Jammu and Kashmir is Yasin Malik. He is a prominent pro-democracy campaigner that the Indian government has sought to portray as a terrorist. They imposed a life sentence on him in 2022, yet many observers have described the case as a “sham trial”.
Now aged 57, Yasin Malik has been campaigning for the people of Kashmir to be given their right to a plebiscite, as promised by the UN, so they can determine their own future.
Yasin Malik believes Kashmiris should be free to choose to join either Pakistan or be a part of India, or unite the two parts of Kashmir to create an independent country. Like most Kashmiris, Yasin wants a fully independent Kashmir.
Yasin Malik meeting with the Ambassador of Belgium to India, Jean M. Deboutte, in 2009 as part of an EU delegation visiting Jammu and Kashmir
When he was young, Yasin got involved with separatist militants, but he renounced all forms of violence in 1994 and since then has worked for a democratic solution.
He garners huge respect from ordinary Kashmiris and Pakistanis, even among those who don’t agree with him politically. He is perceived as a threat by the Indian authorities.
What is the current situation with Jammu and Kashmir?
The far-right government of Narendra Modi does not want to give the people of Kashmir their freedom. They currently have some 900,000 paramilitaries and other troops stationed inside Kashmir. They stifle dissent and try to intimate Kashmiris at home and abroad into silence.
Recently, we have started to see the authorities cancelling the Indian passports of critics and their families over “security concerns”. Those affected include Kashmiri journalists and academics. Several who have tried to return to home have faced arrest and torture, essentially forcing leading opponents to live in exile.
“Kashmir Is My Name”, tells the world about the suffering of #Kashmir through the voice of Della Miles, the vocalist of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston!..RT pls. 🤲
“Keşmir Benim Adım” adlı şarkımız tüm dünyaya Keşmir’in çektiği acıları anlatıyor!..
— Turgay Evren (@TurgayEvren1) July 11, 2022
Fears Yasin Malik could be executed
There are now genuine fears that Yasin Malik may be executed. Having secured life imprisonment against Yasin last year on dubious pretences, India’s National Investigation Authority has appealed to Delhi High Court to change the sentence to the death penalty.
Yasin has been ordered to appear before the court on 9 August. Given the hardening climate in India and the compromised judiciary in such political trials, we fear the outcome.
Many of us have written to the British government to express our concerns and appeal for them to intervene.
Protest outside Indian High Commission
British Kashmiris are also going to be protesting outside the Indian High Commission in London in support of Yasin Malik this Saturday, 5 August. We will be demanding the Indian authorities free Yasin Malik.
We will assemble at Parliament Square first at 1pm on Saturday and march from there to the Indian High Commission.
Everyone is welcome to come and help amplify our voice against the injustices Kashmiris face. Please bring your own country flags and help us make some noise so we can help save brother Yasin Malik’s life.
Turks support Kashmiris
We especially hope our Turkish and Turkish Cypriot brothers and sisters will attend Saturday’s demonstration. The people of Kashmir already enjoy the support of the Turkish government and many ordinary Turks who are familiar with our plight.
A Turkish brother, Turgay Evren, has even produced a song to support Kashmir, called Kashmir is My Name. You can listen to it on his Twitter page, @TurgayEvren, or on YouTube. He will be among the speakers at Saturday’s demonstration.
How did you become a Kashmir activist?
I have been working as a human rights campaigner for over 30 years, mainly on Kashmir. I am currently the chair of Liberal Democrats Friends of Kashmir and our group is very active.
I am involved in a range of actions, from writing letters to petition the government to take action over human rights abuses against Kashmiris abroad, to talking on a variety of mainstream British and community media, and regularly posting on social media.
You can follow Mahmood Faiz on Twitter – click here for his account.
Main image, top, of a protest in Karachi, Pakistan, against the life sentence handed down by a court in New Delhi, India, for convicted pro-independence campaigner and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik, 29 May 2022. Photo © REHAN KHAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12962858b)