Now Kashmir Starts Getting Into British Election Campaign, Again


SRINAGAR: In a highly charged prelude to the upcoming UK General Election on July 4, Conservative candidate Marco Longhi finds himself at the centre of a political storm over his latest campaign leaflet.

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Rishi Sunak, the UK’s youngest and the first Hindu Prime Minister

The leaflet, which has been widely circulated and criticised, suggests that the re-election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signals “tougher times” for the people of Kashmir. This message, aimed at British Pakistani and Kashmiri voters, has sparked a fierce debate over the appropriateness and potential divisiveness of Longhi’s campaign tactics.

The contentious leaflet begins with a message wishing recipients a happy Eid-al-Adha, before delving into the re-election of Modi and its implications for Kashmir.

“Recently we have seen Modi’s BJP being re-elected in India. This means it will be even tougher times for the people of Kashmir in the coming months,” the leaflet reads. Longhi goes on to claim that Modi’s plans for full statehood of Kashmir would entail the removal of its special status and any remaining sovereign rights of Kashmiris.

Highlighting his record, Longhi states, “I was elected as your MP in 2019 and since my election, I have been at the forefront of speaking against the Indian Government atrocities towards the people of Kashmir.” He contrasts his commitment with his Labour opponent, Sonia Kumar, and urges voters to choose him if they want a strong advocate for Kashmir in Parliament.

The leaflet has been met with harsh criticism from across the political spectrum. Labour candidate for Leicester East, Rajesh Agarwal, condemned the leaflet as “dog-whistling politics” and accused Longhi of attempting to divide communities. Agarwal called Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to withdraw support for Longhi’s campaign and apologise for the divisive rhetoric.

“This is a shameful attempt to divide the area that Mr. Longhi claims to represent, and is offensive to both Muslim and Hindu communities,” Agarwal stated. He urged for “zero tolerance” towards such divisive tactics.

Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds echoed these sentiments, describing Longhi’s approach as “inappropriate, divisive, dog whistle politics” and calling for immediate action from Sunak. Lord Austin, a former MP for the constituency, also voiced his disapproval, emphasizing the need for unity and condemning the exploitation of ethnic and religious divides.

Longhi, however, defended his actions in an interview with GB News, asserting that his leaflet expressed genuine concern for the Kashmiri community in his constituency. “My constituents are concerned about issues in Kashmir. Do they trust me, who has campaigned on it, or someone they don’t know, who is Sonia Kumar?” he said.

This incident is not an isolated one; it reflects a broader trend of polarisation along religious lines within British Indian communities. The 2019 UK election saw similar tactics, with messages circulated to Hindu voters warning against Labour due to its perceived anti-India stance. The recent clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Leicester further underscore the rising tensions.


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