Kashmir leaders hail British lead, demand Scots-style vote

sriSRINAGAR: A top Kashmiri leader Friday urged New Delhi to follow Britain’s lead in allowing Scotland’s independence referendum and let the Himalayan region hold a similar vote. While violence has largely diminished in Indian Kashmir, the issue of self-determination is still a divisive one.

The Scottish referendum in which voters rejected independence by 55 per cent majority shows “the democratic character in Britain is very much alive”, veteran Indian Kashmir leader Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani told AFP.

“Freedom to choose is a basic right which should not be snatched from any nation as India has done in Kashmir for over six decades. It is inhuman,” he said.

“India should learn from Britain and Kashmir should also get its right to self-determination,” Geelani added.

Read more: Scotland’s referendum stirs Kashmiri demands

India did not voice an official opinion about the way it wanted Scotland’s referendum.

Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj expressed horror last week in an unguarded moment at the prospect of Britain’s break-up, telling reporters, “God forbid”, before swiftly correcting herself and saying it was up to voters in Scotland to decide.

Indian newspapers said New Delhi had worried that a Scottish vote in favour of separation would fuel independence movements in Kashmir and the northeast.

In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Uzair Ahmed Ghazali, a leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, also praised Britain’s move to allow voters in Scotland to decide on their future.

“The way Britain held the referendum proved that it is a great democratic country,” Ghazali told AFP.

“We will make this referendum in the UK a role model for our (Kashmiri) freedom movement,” he said.

Abdul Rasheed Turabi, head of the Kashmir chapter of the Jamaat-i-Islami said, “India should not claim it is a democratic country because it is not respecting the peoples’ opinion.”

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