Brussels [Belgium], Oct 28: A group of Kashmiri politicians led by Safina Baig, chairperson of the District developmental Council, Baramulla, briefed the European Parliamentarians about the positive changes witnessed in Jammu and Kashmir including the grass root democracy through the implementation of Panchayati Raj system in the past three years.
A delegation from Kashmir Valley participated in a conference entitled "Grassroot Democracy in Kashmir, A road towards Democratic Empowerment", organised by EPP political group at the European Parliament during the Gender equality organized week organized by the European institutions to empower women and girls.
Safina Baig, chairperson of the district development council in Kashmir highlighted that "Jammu and Kashmir, a region grappling with terrorism and conflict, for more than three decades, has seen the mobilization of a new political force through the emergence of a three-tiered system of local governance."
Sadly, this major initiative aimed at empowering the local population has been long overshadowed by a perpetual conflict narrative. As a result, sincere efforts to facilitate accountable, effective, and transparent governance go unnoticed", Safina said.
She added, "The reason behind this enabling change is the young leadership which has been overwhelmingly supported by the public. This new leadership represents the aspirations of the common people to build positive peace through stable and meaningful democratic development. They face many challenging situations and engage with common people to find a democratic solution to their woes".
"We appreciate the interaction between parliamentarians from the European Union and India and hope that such an exchange of ideas will continue in the future - something that will be good for both democracies", Safina told the MEPs.
Earlier British Parliament on Thursday witnessed a historic commemoration of the 75-th year of the signing of the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh, through which the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. Organised by the Jammu Kashmir Study Centre UK, a think tank dedicated to the study of Jammu & Kashmir, the event was hosted by Conservative MP Bob Blackman who is also the Chair of two All Party Parliamentary Groups, APPG for trade and Investment with India and APPG for Indo-Pacific and Co-chair of APPG for India and also APPG for Indian Traditional Sciences. The event, while reflecting on the historicity of the days leading up to the Accession of Jammu Kashmir to India, focused on showcasing the current developments in the region including the positive changes seen since the abrogation of Article 370.
Director India Foundation & Executive Director South Asian Institute for Strategic Affairs spoke on the antiquity of Jammu Kashmir and its history and culture being linked to “Bharat and Bhartiya Sanskriti.” Col Ajay Kumar Raina SM, author and Military Historian, Founding Trustee of Military History Research Foundation India focused on the role of Pakistan and its pre-planned invasion of Jammu Kashmir in 1947. Utpal Koul, International Coordinator of Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora strongly called out the brutal invasion of Pakistan in 1947 and its continued export of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir which selectively targets Hindus. A native of district Bhimber, POJK, Professor Sajjad Raja, Human rights activist and Chairman of National Equality Party JKGBL spoke of the Pakistani invasion which killed thousands of citizens and rape of many women. He added that POJK is facing the worst imaginable violation of basic human rights. All rights social, political and freedom to live has been usurped by Pakistan and the resources of the land in POJK is being plundered by the state.
Professor Sajjad Raja demanded the reunification of JK and called out for people to speak up and stand up against Pakistan and its illegal occupation of POJK.
This was followed by an upbeat presentation on the numerous positive changes seen post the abrogation of Article 370 including vast amounts of investment pouring into the region guarantying economic prosperity in days to come, quantum leap in infrastructure projects ensuring better connectivity within the region and with India, heightened security, strengthened grassroots democracy, political empowerment of tribal communities and other tangible actions towards justice for all. MP Bob Blackman was quite upbeat about the upcoming G20 Summit in Jammu and Kashmir which he said would be a chance for the world to witness and experience the real changes happening on ground. Yana Mir, editor in Chief of The Real Kashmir News, also shared her excitement about the increased normalcy and other positive changes like empowerment of women in a video message for the audience.
The attendees were enthused with the information presented and shared and there was genuine interest among the crowd to understand and know more about the region. Jammu and Kashmir Study Center also urged the crowd to join in for more such discussions in future and aid in spreading the correct information about the region that is essential to counter false propaganda by vested interests.