My speech to the 5 August 2020 Webinar – Year of abuse in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which all meet. Today I am on the land of the Gadigal people and pay tribute to their history, their culture and their ongoing struggles for justice.

Thank you to the organisers of today’s webinar. It is so important we come together on 5 August. This is a tragic day in the long struggle for Kashmir’s freedom. Kashmir has been disputed territory since 1947.

One year ago possibly the most ruthless lockdown and occupation the world has ever seen was occurring. Indian tanks were moving into Srinagar and other strategic regions, barbed wire was being rolling out to prevent people’s free movement, democratically leaders were arrested, an extreme communications black out was imposed.

Those early days must have been so frightening for the people of Kashmir. Shockingly as the weeks and months extended out to today’s one year anniversary life has become more brutal, more oppressive for Kashmiris. Violence, forced disappearances, rapes are some of the human rights abuses that Kashmiris have to live with.

Young Kashmiris are seeing their hopes and dreams dashed – the lockdown and occupation has denied so many their right to an education, work opportunities have vanished, the threat of long periods in gaol all too real.

Let’s remember why India took total control of Kashmir. The right wing Hindu supremacist BJP government has an agenda to impose Hindu nationalism across the subcontinent.

The removal of Kashmiri’s rights and civil liberties through Kashmir’s forced integration into India has been the policy of the BJP and the RSS for decades. They are creating a particularly violent form of settler colonialism. The August 5 takeover is another step towards achieving this, as is India’s response to the Covid pandemic. The Indian nationwide public health lockdown brought in in March is being used by the BJP authorities to intensify police and military repression in many parts of Kashmir.

Today we need to increase our focus on what those of us who do not live in Kashmir can do to ensure the human rights of Kashmiris are respected.

I do believe there is good news for the Kashmiri struggle. Global awareness is building. More peoples are aware that Kashmiris are suffering shocking human rights abuses.

The challenge is how do we build a broad based movement in active support of the Kashmiri struggle.

The Stand With Kashmir movement in Australia is providing great leadership. Please consider signing their open letter in support of self-determination. This puts forward practical measures that the the Australian government should take.

Before I detail some of their suggestions I did want to explore Australia’s responsibility in this matter. We are a neighbour of the India-Asia region – not just the Pacific. Surely we should be a voice for peace with justice and respect for human rights in the region.

When it comes to China we regularly see Australian political leaders advocate for the human rights of all Chinese citizens to be respected. Isn’t it time that Prime Minister Morrison put India’s human rights abuses in Kashmir and other parts of India on the agenda when there are bilateral Indian-Australian talks?

The Stand With Kashmir statement that we can all sign onto, calls on the Australian government to renegotiate trade agreements between Australia and India so that they include a human rights clause.

The Australian government is strongly critical of China’s military expansion in this region. Our political leaders should have a similar message for the Indian government. One year ago India sent an additional 30,000 troops into Kashmir. That brings occupying military personnel numbers to close to one million and makes this one of the most densely militarised regions in the world.

Let’s remember that China, India and Pakistan are all nuclear powers. Australia could play a constructive role in advancing the rights of Kashmiris, and amplifying our voice for peace in our region.

At the end of 2018 I had the opportunity to visit Kashmir – I went to the Line Of Control and to refugee camps. I met family members who have not seen their relatives for decades. It was very, very sad. Their hopes were not dissimilar from mine and what I imagine is primary for most of us – that our loved ones can be together, happy, healthy and that our children can be educated and find work. All fundamental rights we must support and speak up for.

Thank you.

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