On 10 October, there was a news in almost every national media channel in India regarding the Indian Overseas Congress and why the torchbearers of IOC, UK meet Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party chief and Leader of Opposition in the UK. The news went viral after Corbyn tweeted a photo and wrote which was not favouring India at the international level about its image.
A very productive meeting with UK representatives from the Indian Congress Party where we discussed the human rights situation in Kashmir.
There must be a de-escalation and an end to the cycle of violence and fear which has plagued the region for so long. pic.twitter.com/wn8DXLohJT
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 9, 2019
The BJP Twitter handle retweeted it seeking clarification and wrongly expressing Congress' interest in the Kashmir issue at an international forum. I was one of the IOC delegates who met Jeremy and participated in the meeting. In this article, I write what exactly happened, what has been talked about and how things developed. Through this article, I can offer how misinformation is spread and misleads our society.
Most of the media houses and people on social media questioned why the Indian Overseas Congress go to meet UK political leaders. First of all, the meeting was not called by the Indian Overseas Congress(IOC). The meeting was initiated by the Labour party in the UK. On the 25 September, 2019, the UK Labour Party passed a resolution that supported "international intervention in Kashmir and a call for UN led-referendum".
It is widely rejected by most of the Indian diaspora in the UK. IOC and its members were not at all happy about the decision made by the Labour Party. When we received the opportunity to meet Corbyn, the key person of the Labour Party, we did not want to lose the opportunity to talk on the resolution and condemn. A team of seven led by the president of IOC, UK, Kamal Dhaliwal met Corbyn and his team at the House of Commons on 8 October.
It is a fact that the main topic of discussion was Kashmir and we all were well aware of the sensitivity of the issue. I have summarised the overall points discussed during the meeting.
Firstly, from the very beginning of the meeting, spokesperson of IOC UK Sudhakar Goud made it very clear that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and we do not accept any external interference. Besides, I can clearly remember, the team from the Labour Party trying to raise the points on human rights violations which possibly they have seen/observed widely from news and the available information on the public domain.
To counter that, Sudhakar said, “We don't accept interference from any external country in our internal matters. There are no human right violations in Kashmir. And if there were any, we would fight them internally. We said the only concerns we had was about the way BJP had revoked Article 370 without consulting Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and clampdown on communications.”
In addition to this, we all had also uttered in a very clear manner, we disagree with the current ruling party on many things but in the matter of Kashmir, we will never give any space to any country to interfere in this matter. Secondly, during the discussion, there was a point discussed regarding what could be the solution and how peace can be brought in place. I vehemently reacted and said the first thing which will help get peace in the Valley is stopping international involvement whether from the front or the backdoor.
Without the help of neighbourhood country, the separatists' movement cannot be executed on the ground. A huge portion of the population in the Valley is pro-Indian. In my opinion, a very small number of groups are the actual problems that also cannot run their propaganda without the external help being delivered by people sitting in Pakistan. Following, there was a point raised how local political leaders were made house arrest. Dhaliwal responded by saying that is over and they are free now. He also added, he studied in Kashmir with people from a diverse community. He never had any issue during his student days.
Lastly, we raised our concerns over the recent violent protest outside of the Indian High Commission in London and also discussed there has been a common feeling among the Indian communities in the UK over the incident and who possibly backed them. So altogether, the articulations made by the whole team were never ever against our country’s image which ruling party is trying to portray wrongfully.
Essentially, we raised the point about the resolution of the labour party on Jammu and Kashmir which was our main purpose to agree to meet. We made our position very clear that Indian diaspora is not happy about the resolution and if they can reevaluate their decision and withdraw it back.
Our meeting with @jeremycorbyn was held to condemn the Kashmir resolution passed by his Party & to reiterate that J&K is an internal matter & outside intervention will not be accepted. @BJP4India's malicious statements are another attempt to distract people from their failures.
— Indian Overseas Congress UK (@TeamIOCUK) October 10, 2019
We have been asked the same questions across different media(including social media), why the Congress high command disowned the meeting with Jeremy. In the response, Dhaliwal in an interview clearly said this meeting has nothing to do with the Congress party in India. It was meant to be for the Indian diaspora.
President of Indian Overseas Congress Kamal Dhaliwal, who refuted Jeremy Corbyn’s tweet on Kashmir, talks to India Today’s @loveenatandon.
More #ReporterDiary: https://t.co/FAHzdk9TO8 pic.twitter.com/qDUmGvvMaA
— India Today (@IndiaToday) October 12, 2019
With full conviction over the incident, I can claim we have been extensively misinterpreted and a massive role was played by our media. And certainly, anyone can guess the reason. The BJP has always targeted the Congress party through its leadership to malign the image of the party and also to hide all the incompetencies of the government. It was absolutely shocking when I found the name of Sam Pitroda on the news and reporters were assuming his role could have been in the meeting. Pitroda should not have been dragged into this matter. This whole incident conveys how most of the media houses blindly follow what ruling party thinks and says without reasoning about the moral ground. We can clearly observe similarities in the narrative among BJP’s Twitter handle and the media houses who were very enthusiastically making this as a piece of big breaking news.
At the same time, this is also true, some of the news agencies have covered our narratives/statements and assembled them in the public domain. We sincerely appreciate this.
Media being the fourth pillar of democracy, it has a huge responsibility towards society. In the contemporary socio-political environment, it's not easy to have found many neutral news agencies which promote the truth unconditionally. We, the people of the country must realise this before it prevails over the entire society and leads nowhere.
The author is vice-president Indian Overseas Youth Congress (IOYC), UK and in-charge of data analytics, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) Human Rights Cell.
Updated Date: Oct 16, 2019 08:04:40 IST