Christians and Muslims against the isolation of Indian Kashmir
Tension remain high following India’s security measures in the disputed territory. Jammu and Kashmir is the only Indian state with a Muslim majority. The former executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission calls for a referendum to decide the issue of sovereignty.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Some Christian groups are taking part in gatherings across the country in solidarity with the people of Kashmir, and against human rights violations in the Indian-administered territory.
Two days ago, Indian authorities isolated the disputed region and cancelled its autonomy, in violation of constitutional guarantees, sending thousands of additional troops to the only state with a Muslim majority.
The Presbyterian Church of Pakistan plans a "peaceful rally against Indian atrocities" on Friday at the Liberty roundabout in Lahore.
"We condemn the move by Indian government to revoke Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and also Article 35-A prohibiting property rights for non-Kashmiris,” said Rev Amjad Niamat, president of the Presbyterian Ecumenism and Interfaith Harmony Commission, speaking to AsiaNews. “This is the most serious attack against Kashmiris since it was made part of India in 1948.”
The "Indian government has taken many regressive steps,” he added, “from a secular state to fundamentalism. We demand a political and democratic solution as per UN resolutions in the past. Violence will not solve anything."
Farooq Tariq, the Muslim spokesman for the Awami Workers Party, calls for the demilitarisation of Kashmir.
"All army troops either from India or Pakistan should be out of this zone. Similarly, we reject US President's offer to mediate in Kashmir. We also reject religious extremists in Pakistan who have been demanding that Kashmir become part of Pakistan," he said. "Kashmir has its own culture and traditions.” Others “should deal with them as Kashmiris and as an independent nation."
Prof Anjum James Paul, a Catholic who chairs the Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association, expressed concern over the growing tensions between India and Pakistan. In his view, "Minorities in both countries become insecure amid repeated war mongering insanity.”
Father Bonnie Mendes, former executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, calls for a referendum under the supervision of the United Nations, to decide the issue of sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir.
"Enough with the brutality,” he said. “The use of force can never bring lasting peace. Let the people of Kashmir decide their own destiny," he added.