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Kashmir emerges as the key issue for Indian Diaspora, Labor Party faces heat

India has clearly told the global community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter

London, Nove 11 (UITV): The Kashmir issue, against the stage of the Indian government's revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status, is emerging in its way into the General Election campaign in the UK, with candidates warning against presenting the divisions of the subcontinent into play ahead of the December 12 poll.

Social media messages and chat groups are being used by some Indian diaspora outfits to try and affect voters, with the Opposition Labour Party facing the pressure of the attacks for its perceived anti-India stance since it passed a resolution favouring international intervention in Kashmir.

"I don't think we are made better off as a country by continuing the divisions of our homelands, instead we should focus on Britain today. Kashmir is a issue for the people of Kashmir and all conflicts must be resolved within the law and Constitution of India, said Virendra Sharma, a senior Indian-origin Labour MP who hopes to win again from his Ealing Southall constituency from west London a seat he has held for the party since 2007.

This election is about deciding about the kind of Britain we want to live in, he said.

On August 5, India abrogated the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories, evoking strong reactions from Pakistan.

India has clearly told the global community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the fact.

Some of the anti-Labour messages doing the rounds on WhatsApp and Twitter include attacks on the party as being anti-Hindu for not censuring protests organised by pro-Pakistani groups in London.

A specific video that is being shared widely presents a controversial right-wing British journalist being harrassed by protesters during the "Free Kashmir" rally on Diwali last month, in an endeavour to accuse the Labour Party of blindly supporting Pakistan's propaganda over India's abrogation of Article 370 to convert Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories.

This is extremely worrying, says Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the first turbaned Sikh to be elected to the UK Parliament in the 2017 election.

The Labour candidate, who hopes to win again from Slough in Berkshire, emphasizes that the party's resolution on Kashmir, words of which have been acknowledged by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn as being somewhat open to misinterpretation, was a concentration on human rights and not anti-India in any way.

The resolution read: Accept that Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir should be given the right of self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions.

'Respect British Indians', an umbrella group claiming to represent over 100 British Indian outfits set up on Twitter to lobby Corbyn to withdraw the resolution, has also drafted a pledge for every British politician contesting the December 12 election to dedicate to abrogating the partisan and ill-informed motion passed by the party at its conference in September.

The Indian diaspora, estimated to represent over 1 million votes in a UK election, have usually been chased by all key parties with attractive photo opportunities at gurdwaras and temples.

However, experts point out that the idea that they could be mobilised into voting en masse over one particular issue is unlikely to be the case.

While Kashmir may be a possible issue for some in the diaspora community, and therefore expressly concerned over Labour's interfering busy body behaviour, it is not for all, said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a think-tank in London.

Other factors such as Brexit may be equitably significant to British Indian diaspora voters, along with differing voting preferences on the basis of origin (a proportion of the diaspora originate from Eastern Africa), socio-economic status, age and traditional voting patterns/party loyalty, he said.

Sunder Katwala, Director of the integration think-tank British Future, also spotlighted the history of subcontinent issues finding their way into British politics without a significant impact on the outcome of elections.

He said: Only a vocal minority of voters would see Kashmir as the primary issue in how to vote in a British General Election.

For most British Indian voters, questions of who should lead the country, Brexit, the economy and taxation, schools and hospitals are going to be more important than views on international affairs may often reinforce greater views about (UK Prime Minister) Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn, whether supportive or questioning, for voters with different views of the India-Pakistan conflict, he said.