The Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi hosted a Community Forum on Kashmir on Wednesday 20 November at Holroyd Community Centre, Merrylands calling on the Australian government to urgently raise its voice on the oppression of the indigenous people of Kashmir.

Senator Faruqi pointed out that, following the 5th of August unilateral revocation of the autonomy of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, India had imposed a total blackout in order to suppress the any reaction of the people towards that unjust move.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi. Photo: Anjum Rafiqi.

As a result, citizens had limited to no access to the outside world through phone or internet while freedom of movement had been restricted; public meetings banned; democratically elected public representatives locked up; and the state handed over to armed forces.

Senator Faruqi expressed her disappointment at the lack of traction, with the Australian Government, on seeking to escalate the matter at an official level with the Indian government.

“Inspite of my numerous attempts at getting my parliamentary colleagues from the two major parties to take a principled stand on this long outstanding dispute in the sub-continent and the human right violations rampant in Kashmir, both Labour and the Coalition have failed to take a principled stand,” Senator Faruqi lamented.

Former Pakistani Ambassador to Australia Mr Khizar Niazi, in his presentation, briefly narrated the sequence of events that has led to the most recent and continuing clampdown on the people of Kashmir since 4 August 2019.

Mr Khizar Niazi, Former Pakistani Ambassador to Australia. Photo: Anjum Rafiqi.

Mr Niazi highlighted the absurdity of the actions of the current Indian BJP government having unilaterally revoked Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution, making use of their brute majority in the parliament.

“This is a flagrant of the terms of temporary accession signed by the maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir and India, in 1947, and goes against the Indian constitution itself,” Mr Niazi said.

Expressing his disappointment at the double standards demonstrated by the Australian polity, Mr Niazi called out the Liberals led government and the Labour opposition, together with the Australian media, at having sealed their lips on this burning humanitarian issue.

Mr Joel Clark, from Amnesty International, highlighted the challenges his colleagues are faced from the Indian state machinery, while seeking to document and establish facts on the ground in Kashmir.

Mr Joel Clark, from Amnesty International. Photo: Anjum Rafiqi.

Mr Clark drew the attention of the forum to areas of immediate concern – one that of severe restrictions on the movement and activities of the people of Kashmir, arbitrary detention of thousands of individuals from all walks of life, including politicians, with a dissenting view – prior to and after the 5th of August and more importantly the detention of juveniles which numbers at 144 according to official figures.

Emphasising the right to expression as a global human right, Mr Clark expressed alarm at the continued denial of the right to the people of Kashmir. He called on the process of dialogue to begin at the earliest, for all disputes have to be talked out and negotiated for an enduring solution to this long standing dispute.

Syed Zafar Hussain, Mr Omer Faruqi, Hon. Senator Dr. Mehreen Faruqi, Former Ambassador Khizar Niazi and his wife. Photo: Sada-e-Watan Sydney.

Ms Shafaq Jaffery, a community activist, gave voice to the anguish of the people of Kashmir through a touching poem. She also expressed her anguish at the continued denial of expression to the people of Kashmir. As a global citizen, she appealed to all to stand up for humanity and speak for the people of Kashmir.

Concluding the forum, as a way forward, Senator Faruqi encouraged the public to continue to positively engage with the elected representatives at all levels to bring about awareness about the Kashmir Issue, continued human rights violations and the impact on women and children in Kashmir.