JAMMU, Nov 3: Jammu and Kashmir Day was celebrated for the third year in running in the UK Parliament to mark the 70th year of the accession of J&K to India by the then Maharaja Hari Singh, with a packed room and in the presence of key dignitaries.
Originally celebrated as Accession Day, the date symbolizes the union of the Kingdom of J&K with India which was later ratified in the State Assembly. To mark the occasion Major Gaurav Arya, a war veteran and former member of the XVII Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army was invited all the way from India to deliver the keynote address.
The day was dedicated to the memory of the many soldiers and members of Indian Armed Forces who had sacrificed their lives on the line of duty. The programme was hosted jointly Jammu Kashmir Festival team led by Lakshmi Kaul, its Curator & Director and Bob Blackman MP.
Madhu Sethi, Counsellor (Political and International Organization) also graced the occasion. Also present among the dignitaries was leading businessman and philanthropist Rami Langer who in a highly emotive presentation gifted to Maj Arya “Don’t Break Up India”, a book on the life of his illustrious father Shaheed Nanak Singh. To honour Maj Arya and to mark the immense contribution of the Indian Armed Forces, Blackman presented the Indian symbol of remembrance, the Marigold Pin Badge as a token of love and respect to the Indian Armed Forces.
Blackman, while speaking on the importance of the day, displayed a copy of the Original Instrument of Accession, saying that the accession was full and final and ratified via a completely democratic process.
Lakshmi Kaul, in her welcome address, said, “The celebration of Jammu and Kashmir Day feels complete today as we honour the brave martyrs, the soldiers and jawans serving the nation on the borders as they sacrifice a lot to make everyone feel safe and secure. We must never forget what they do for us”.
Maj Gaurav Arya delivered a highly inspirational speech with utmost humility, laying out facts on the table and busting some of the popular myths around the role of Indian Army in the Kashmir conflict. Acknowledging the gross human rights violations by Indian Army in Kashmir, Maj Arya said, “Yes there have been human rights violations by the Indian Army and it was wrong. Every soldier responsible for these violations has been punished”.
However, he said, there are gross human rights violations of the Indian Army personnel posted in Jammu and Kashmir, where they are abused and attacked by terrorists – what about the human rights of the army officers and jawans?”
A 25 minutes long keynote speech by Maj Arya was followed by an hour-long Question and Answer session with the audience asking him questions ranging from the plebiscite and UN resolution to role of Army on the Siachen glacier. Questions were raised about the role of civil society in Pakistan and on the process of peace building which were responded to by the guest speaker.