The following speech was given by Coalition treasurer Ken Stone earlier this month for Kashmir Solidarity Day 2020.
SPEECH AT KASHMIR SOLIDARITY DAY 2020
by Ken Stone
Brothers and Sisters,
On behalf of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War, I thank the organizers, Friends of Kashmir Canada, for inviting us to this observance of Kashmir Solidarity Day 2020.
Like Karen and Michaela, I also visited Azad Kashmir in 2017. It was evident to me from that visit there was no state of emergency, no lockdown in that part of Kashmir. There were no shotgun-wielding soldiers in the streets, there were no curfews, there was little in the way of a police presence at all at the university. On the contrary, what I observed all the way from border of Kashmir to the centre of Muzaffarabad was the normal hustle and bustle of daily life, mixed with a presence of foreign tourists admiring the magnificent setting of the capital city.
The reason for the calm in Azad Kashmir is that the Kashmiri population there are satisfied to be part of the predominantly Muslim state of Pakistan which has championed their rights as Kashmiris to self-determination and treats them as citizens of Pakistan with equal rights to all other citizens of Pakistan and also grants them special status. On the contrary, in Indian-occupied Kashmir, the Kashmiris are rightly rebelling against a government that was imposed on them, in violation of their democratic aspirations, in opposition to international law and in violation of several UN resolutions from 1948 onwards, a government which has ruled over them in the most brutal fashion for over 70 years. We, in the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, hold that the Kashmiri people, like the people of Palestine, have the right under international law to resist this illegal occupation in any manner they see fit. So we applaud the continuing resistance of the people of IOK to the Modi government’s removal of Kashmir’s special status within the Indian constitution, its lockdown of the territory, its Citizenship Amendment Act, and its National Register of Citizens, all acts designed to make non-Hindus second-class citizens in India.
We commend the fact the Kashmiris have massively embarked on a campaign of civil disobedience against the Indian occupation. We laud the parents who refuse to send their children to school even when the schools are open. We cheer the shopkeepers who continue to shutter their shops during regular business hours, and we admire the youth who risk their lives by physically challenging the huge Indian army of occupation.
Canadians should be proud of the fact that it was a Canadian – General Andrew McNaughton – who sat as President of the Security Council on Dec 22, 1949, and introduced a resolution in which the United Nations voted to authorize a referendum among the people of Kashmir about their political future. That was the right and democratic thing to do.
Conversely, Canadians should be embarrassed by the overwhelming silence on the part of the current government of Canada to the cries of the Kashmiri people for an end to India’s brutal occupation and to the Modi government’s increasingly racist legislative program. As Canadians, over the past year, we should take pride in the fact we have collectively and significantly raised the issue of Kashmir to a much higher profile in Canada than ever before and have lobbied many politicians to follow in the steps of General McNaughton. On this day of Kashmir Solidarity, let us resolve to raise the profile of Kashmir even higher in Canada in the coming year.
Peace activists are interested in the faraway issue of Kashmir as well, because of the danger of war. India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Jammu & Kashmir in the past 72 years in which over 25000 soldiers perished. No one has an accurate count of how many hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed in these wars and who are still being killed or made homeless almost every day along the Line of Control. Today, India has nuclear-armed submarines, aircraft, and missiles. Pakistan’s defence policy is to give control over tactical nuclear weapons, in the event of an Indian attack, to its battlefield generals. The Bulletin of Nuclear Scientists, which this year moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds before midnight – the closest they have ever been – estimates that, in a military clash between India and Pakistan in which only ten to twenty nuclear weapons of various sizes are exploded, enough radioactive dust and fallout would be created to cause a nuclear winter for four to five years which would virtually wipe out human civilization.
And, in this context, I wish to point out that the Trudeau government chose unfortunately to stand with its NATO allies and NOT sign onto the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
On this day of solidarity with Kashmir, let us once again take the peaceful, legal, and democratic option. Let’s raise our voices once again for the self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Thank you for your kind attention.