A seminar was held yesterday on 27 October 2022 at Granville Community Centre to observe the ‘Black Day’, the 74th anniversary of the invasion of the state of Jammu & Kashmir by Indian army, where speakers highlighted the plight of the indigenous people of Kashmir under brutal occupation by Indian military and called on the international community and the Australian government to censor Hindu nationalist BJP government led by PM Modi to refrain from changing the demography of the State and pave way for the self-determination of Kashmiris through plebiscite in accordance with UN resolutions passed more than 70 years ago.

The event, organised by the Australian Forum for Kashmir (AFK) and facilitated by the Pakistan Consulate General in Sydney was attended by more than 100 people including community and interfaith leaders, human rights activists, politicians and Australians of diverse background.

The formal program started with the recitation from Quran followed by national anthems of Australia, Pakistan and Kashmir.

Mr Rab Nawaz, Coordinator of AFK and a Kashmiri himself welcomed guests and representatives of various community organisation and explained the significance of the ‘Black Day’ observed by the people of Kashmir wherever they may be.

“On this Day 75 years ago, a great tragedy happened in South Asia. While 390 million people of Indian Subcontinent became the citizens of tw0 newly created democracies, yet tragically four million of their own brothers and sisters in Kashmir became enslaved by a new colonial power, India,” Mr Nawaz observed.

He further added, “India invaded Jammu and Kashmir and Indian forces entered Srinagar on Monday 27 October 1947. India occupied Jammu and Kashmir is total Violation of the Partition Plan of the Subcontinent and against the Aspirations of Four Million Kashmiris.”

The second speaker, Mr Usaid Khalil, Secretary General of Islamic Forum for Australian Muslims (IFAM) called on the Muslim Community to understand the issues facing the people of Kashmir and make representation with Australian government to highlight the human rights violations of the Kashmiris by Indian military in Kashmir.

The next speaker, Mr Zia Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of AMUST after acknowledging the indigenous first peoples of Australia as the traditional custodians of this land and paying respect to their elders past, present and emerging reminded the audience that the Kashmiri people are also indigenous to their land in greater Kashmir, it’s valleys and it’s mountains with their own unique ethnicity, culture, language and way of living.

He went on to point out the significance of the day saying, “27 October is called the black day when the occupation of Kashmir commenced with occupation by Indian military resulting in conflict with Pakistan and subsequent ceasefire with the agreement for a plebiscite or referendum for the Kashmiris to decide if they want to join the the Indian union opt for Pakistan’s or live independently with autonomy.”

“Unfortunately it’s more than 70 years now and the promise of that choice has not be forthcoming and India categorically has reneged on its promise where Pakistan has unfortunately also failed to bring in UN to push for the self-determination of the indigenous people of Kashmir.”

“Fast forward to August 2019 when the BJP Hindu nationalist government in a shocking move boldly and brutally annexed Kashmir without any consultation with ordinary Kashmiris, it’s local or state politicians and even without informing the Indian opposition parties on its move.

“The new strategy of finding the Kashmir solution by the Modi government is to dilute the ethnic and Muslim Majority in Kashmir by moving other Indians specially large masses of Hindus into Kashmir and giving them top administrative jobs as well as voting rights eventually to absorb Kashmir into India for good.”

Comparing the situation of Kashmiris with that of the Palestinians, Mr Ahmad  said, “the Indian government is following the same tactics as the Israelis as the occupying power in Palestine with brutal oppression, apartheid and occupation of land and shifting of population to uproot its indigenous people.”

He called on the international community in general and Muslims in particular to raise their voice against this gross injustice to the  peace loving people of Kashmir.

Senator David Shoebridge in a video message for the occasion emphasised on the rights of the people of Kashmir for their self determination and highlighting of their human rights violations by the Modi government during the last three years.

Three more speakers Haji Nasib Mohammed, President of IAWSS, Mr Kesar Trad, CEO of AFIC and Sheikh Shadi Alsuleiman echoed the sentiments of the previous speakers in urging the influential members of the community to create awareness of the issue of Kashmir amongst the community, mainstream Australians and the politicians.

Ms Lee Rhiannon, who last visited Azam Kashmir in 2018 having observed the miserable condition of Kashmir families divided between Indian and Pakistani administered areas of Kashmir said, “we gather together today to mark Kashmir Black Day.I believe it is very impprtant that we collectivelyremember these anniversaries. We must honour those who have died and those who have suffered and recognise that the international community has a responsibility to stand with the people of Jammu & Kashmir to help ensure that their right to self-determination is achieved.”

“We also need to note that this barbarity perpetrated by the Indian military forces was stepped up in August 2019 when the Modi government suspended the special status of Jammu & Kashmir that had previously been recognised under the Indian Constitution.”

“This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to assess the state of global solidarity with Jammu & Kashmir. I believe more people are learning about the plight of Kashmiris – and that is a big plus. However, in terms of winning more voices to our global call for self-determination and an to end human rights abuses we need to be frank – our success has been limited. This is not just because India maintains about 900,000 troops in this region.”

“Australia is one of the western nations that is failing the people of Jammu and Kashmir and members of various minorities across India. Unfortunately so far on this front nothing changed with the change of government here. The new Labor government is closely following the previous conservative government’s approach of – speak no ill of India’s human rights abuses.”

“Ironically the approach of both former and current governments stands in sharp contrast to how they treat China. While China is heavily criticised for its human rights abuses, as it should be, the Morrison government was silent on the Modi government’s actions in Kashmir and the human rights abuses of Muslims and other minorities in India.”

“It would be most disappointing if Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong followed the approach of former foreign minister Marise Payne who shut down any questions about Kashmir by dismissing it as a bilateral issue to be settled between India and Pakistan.”

“The pressure should be on Senator Wong now. If she can stand up for Muslims in China why can’t she stand up for Muslims in Kashmir and the rest of India. Last month the Foreign Minister spoke about the UN’s report into China’s mass detention of Uighurs. She described it as “harrowing reading” noting that the report found credible claims of torture and ill-treatment.”

“Surely it is time that Senator Wong acquaints herself with the deteriorating situation facing the two hundred million Indian Muslims. There are numerous reports about the human rights abuses they are suffering along with other minorities such as Dalits, Adivasis and Sikhs. I am sure she would also find many ofthese contain harrowing reading.”

“Today Kashmir Black Day is an occasion to reiterate our commitment to stand with the people of Jammu Kashmir and to step up our International solidarity to build a mass movement that will help put pressure on western powers to speak out about human rights abuses and advocate for peace with justice in this region. Public opinion is the path to help Kashmiris achieve the right that all people should enjoy – the right of self-determination,” Ms Rhiannon concluded.

The final speaker at the event was Mr Muhammad Ashraf, Pakistan’s Consul General in Sydney who gave a historical background of the Kashmir dispute.  

“As you have learnt from the speeches of the distinguished speakers, today marks the 75th sombre anniversary of India’s illegal occupation of the Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) against their will,” Mr Ashraf said.

“To perpetuate its forcible occupation of the IIOJK, India has amassed more than 900,000 armed troops in the territory. Torture, illegal detentions, implication in fictitious cases, indiscriminate use of force under the impunity of draconian laws and systemic campaigns to rob the Kashmiris of their distinct cultural and religious identities mark the reality of India’s brutal occupation of the occupied territory.”

“The situation has further worsened since India’s illegal and unilateral revocation of the special status of IIOJK on 5th August 2019. Around 690 extra-judicial killings of innocent Kashmiris have taken place at the hands of the Indian occupation forces in the last three years. Prominent Hurriyat leaders have been detained illegally or placed under house arrest.”

“India is also making reprehensible attempts at bringing about demographic changes in IIOJK by issuing fake domiciles, changing property laws, gerrymandering electoral districts, creating new seats for Hindu-dominated regions in the state legislature, and adding non-Kashmiri residents to the electoral rolls.”

“Three successive generations of Kashmiris have waited for the world and the United Nations to deliver. Pakistan calls upon the international community to take practical steps to hold India accountable and Indian Government must reverse the unilateral and illegal actions of 5th August 2019; stop its egregious human rights violations in IIOJK; repeal the draconian laws and implement the relevant UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir.”

“Our message to all Kashmiri brothers and sisters on this sombre occasion is simple: Pakistan will always stand by you, no matter what the cost. We are your voice to the world. Our support and solidarity is abiding. We will not rest until you secure your legitimate right to self-determination. In Sha Allah, that day is not far away,” Mr Ashraf concluded.

The program ended with a Q&A session, dua and dinner for all.