How the Clash in Kashmir Moved Abroad

The Diaspora's Fight in the United Kingdom

An Indian policeman walks past a detainee inside a police vehicle during a demonstration in Srinagar, September 9, 2013. Danish Ismail / Reuters

In April, the passing of Amanullah Khan, a vibrant and influential independence leader in the Kashmiri conflict, revealed the depth of support the independence movement had gained among the Kashmiri diaspora. Born in 1934, Khan was the founding leader of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a pro-independence political party with branches in India- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. It was instrumental in turning the Kashmir issue into a global cause, particularly in the United Kingdom where over half a million Kashmiris are believed to live, according to several academics and researchers, such as Roger Ballard and Virinder Kalra from the University of Manchester.

Over the years, the movement in the United Kingdom expanded, but also fragmented, branching off into different organizations. Still, it contributed significantly in raising awareness about the conflict in Kashmir, as well as the role resistance politics played in the development of Kashmiri identity. It also opened up pathways for British Kashmiris to enter British politics at both local and national levels. In 1992, the Labour Party even included a line on Kashmir in its party manifesto, which stated, “The Labour government will make itself available to our friends in India and Pakistan to assist in achieving a negotiated solution to the problem of Kashmir that is acceptable to all the people of Kashmir—Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists.” At the time, British Kashmiris organized study circles, discussions, made policy recommendations, and participated in different campaigns centered around racism, immigration, equality for minorities, and community development issues. However, today, British Kashmiris, although one of the most active in the South Asian community, are split over how they envision Kashmir’s future and divided along clan and tribal lines within the diaspora community.

A Kashmiri protester runs during an anti-Indian protest in Srinagar, February 20, 2010.

Fayaz Kabli / Reuters

Understanding the progression of Kashmiri politics abroad, and how it fractured, requires going back to the beginning. The movement did not gain significance in the United Kingdom until the 1960s, when Kashmiri labor migration rose sharply.

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