KUALA LUMPUR: A prominent Indian Muslim community leader and vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has disputed Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement accusing India of invading Kashmir, saying he is factually wrong.
Zafarul-Islam Khan, who chairs the federal-backed Delhi Minorities Commission to represent minority religions, also reiterated that the state of Jammu and Kashmir – for which India and Pakistan have fought three major wars with both claiming sovereignty over the entire region – should remain as part of the Indian Union.
“From the point of view of the Indian Muslim community, Kashmir and Kashmiris are a very important and valuable part of our community and country, and we wish to see it as part of the Union of India,” he told FMT in response to Mahathir’s remarks at the UN General Assembly last month accusing India of “invading Kashmir” and breaking a UN resolution.
Since the 1947 partition of India which gave birth to Pakistan, the two countries have been locked in numerous armed skirmishes over Kashmir, a mountainous region in the north with a Muslim-majority population.
But Khan, the son of one of India’s most illustrious contemporary Muslim scholars Wahiduddin Khan, said he disagreed with the policies of the present government, especially the move to abolish Clause 370 of the Indian constitution guaranteeing autonomy in some areas for Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the Modi government’s action in August was a violation of the Indian constitution which states that the autonomy clause can only be abolished by the legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The way its guarantee of autonomy was hastily removed was wrong, the denial of political and civil rights to the Kashmiris is wrong, and the way the Kashmiris have been treated since is wrong too,” said Khan.
Mahathir’s remarks sparked outrage among some circles in India, with calls for a boycott of Malaysian palm oil.
India is the largest importer of Malaysian palm oil, making up 28% of total palm oil exports. Last year, India bought close to RM7 billion worth of palm oil and palm-oil based products from Malaysia.
But despite the protests, Mahathir has refused to retract his statement, threatening to sour ties already complicated by Malaysia’s resistance to India’s attempts to extradite Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik over money laundering charges.
Khan, who in August said Mahathir had a point in refusing to hand over Naik given the BJP government’s human rights record, said Kashmir had always been part of India.
“India did not invade Kashmir on Aug 5, 2019. India was already there and Kashmir was already part of India since 1949 though there is a dispute with Pakistan over the territory,” he said.
But he also said India’s sovereignty over the region does not give New Delhi the right to clamp down on human rights such as by imposing curfews, blocking the internet and mobile phone signals, as well as jailing thousands of people.
“This is wrong and no democratic country should treat any part of its population in such a shabby and autocratic way,” he added.