Brussels-Based Activist Urges PM Modi to Win `Hearts and Minds’ of Kashmiris 

Posted: May 9, 2016 in Conflict and Peace, Draconian Laws, Human Rights, Right to Dissent, State Violence

Anubhuti Vishnoi

Brussels:
`ONLY WAY IS TO TALK’ Repeal draconian laws and involve Kashmiris in any dialogue on Kashmir: Ali Raza Syed

Brussels-based Kashmir Centre, which came under the scanner five years ago for allegedly using ISI funds to lobby for Kashmir, may have closed its upscale 12 Rue Belliard office, but it continues to operate a post box out of there.While there is no sign of Kashmir Centre activity in the Belgium capital, curiously , its post box is being shared by another organisation fighting for Kashmiri rights -International Council for Human Development (ICHD), which was at the forefront of organising protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Brussels in March to attend the European Union-India summit.

Ali Raza Syed, chairman of ICHD, claimed to ET that his organisation has nothing to do with the Kashmir Centre or Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmir-born US citizen who was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in July 2011 for allegedly being a paid agent of Pakistan’s Inter-State Intelligence (ISI). FBI in its c o u r t f i l i n g s against Fai -per haps the most visi b l e f a c e o f Kashmiri activism in the West till then -had alleged that ISI had links with Kashmiri Centres in London and ed also chairs the Brussels. Syed also chairs the Kashmir Council, EU, that together with ICHD is vocal on the right to self-determination in Kashmir.

“We are not responsible for the activities of Fai. His message was simply the right to self-determination in Kashmir. We are not associated with the Kashmir Centre or connected with it. We are against all kinds of extremism and want a peaceful way ,“ Syed told ET.

ICHD operates out of a modest office on Avenue Des Vaillants in Brussels.

Syed said the protest against Modi was not the last one even if the Belgian authorities are keeping a close eye on a range of organisations following the Brussels terror attacks in March.

“We did protest and will continue to. Our voice should be heard and to protest is the right of the people. We can even protest against the Belgian government if necessary . We believe in peaceful protests and follow the law of the land,“ Syed said.

“Our strategy is simple -to remind India and the international community about the lives lost in Kashmir and the need to resolve this. Our main objectives is to bring peace with justice. We are against all kinds of extremism,“ he said.

Syed emphasised on the need to win `hear ts and minds’ in Kashmir, repeal draconian laws and involve Kashmiris in any dialogue on Kashmir.

“The question is can PM Modi take real courageous steps that his predecessors could not? We have written to PM Modi and posed four questions to him, asking him to do away with draconian laws, create an environment for talks, opening up of the LoC and so on,“ he said.

“India should be asking, what for the first time you have people from the valley -young, educated Kashmiris -taking up arms now?
Earlier, it was from other areas.Force is not going to solve this issue either through militancy or through the army . The only way is to talk,“ Syed added.

He also said the new PDP government in Jammu & Kashmir must “see the feelings of the people“ and try not to do things that the people will not accept. “The first things to be done is repealing the Public Safety Act. The new government must do this to calm things down and win hearts and minds.“

The ICHD chairman also said the NIT Srinagar controversy -started with a clash of students following India’s elimination from the T20 World Cup -was “exploited by some extremist elements“ and sparked an unfortunate chain reaction. “The NIT issue was not a problem…it should not have been exploited…Everybody has a right to support any team they want to and that should be respected. This kind of thing can be avoided…but it shows that there is lack of space to express feelings, there is frustration among students…no liberty,“ Syed said.

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