Washington: A leader of Gilgit-Baltistan has met BJP general-secretary Ram Madhav in the US, seeking his help in creating legislative space for the people of this part of Jammu and Kashmir, as the two senior leaders discussed the violation of religious freedom and rights in the region.
During the meeting, Madhav and Senge Sering, director of Gilgit-Baltistan National Congress, discussed issues related to the "chronic Kashmir dilemma" with focus on the on-going political development in the region.
"People of Gilgit-Baltistan continue to suffer due to absence of constitutional rights and Pakistan lacks the legal capacity to grant the locals citizenship. India therefore must create space for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in its legislative institutions and help internationalise the matter," Sering said after meeting Madhav.
Sering spoke on the need to revive dialogue with Pakistan to discuss confidence-building measures related to cross Line-of-Control movement.
Currently, there are over 15,000 people living in Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan who belong to separated families and await a decision by both the countries to open Skardo Kargil and Gangche-Nubra roads to facilitate meetings and reunions, he said.
The two leaders shared views on opening Indian educational and health institutions for the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Thousands of Pakistani citizens travel to India to benefit from its health and educational facilities. However, this option is not available to the residents of PoK-GB, a media release on the meeting said.
They also discussed the on-going violations of religious freedom and rights in Gilgit-Baltistan as the Pakistan government recently charged hundreds of people for terrorism for peacefully commemorating Imam Hussain Day in educational institutions.
Talking about jailed political activists, many of whom face a life sentence, Sering explained how abrogation of State Subject Rule has enabled Pakistan to illegally change the socio-economic demography affecting the local culture.
BJP's proposal to elect parliamentarians from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan also came up during the discussion.
Sering said India claims the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as its citizens and it is, therefore, incumbent upon the Indian government to treat the people of Gilgit-Baltistan at par with those living in Ladakh or Jammu and Kashmir.
At the moment, 24 seats are vacant in the Kashmir Assembly which are reserved for the people of PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan.