MUZAFFARABAD: The capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir resounded with anti-India slogans on Thursday as hundreds of schoolchildren staged a demonstration to express solidarity with their brethren in India-held Kashmir facing persecution by occupation forces for their quest for freedom.
Clad in colourful dresses and uniforms, boys and girls from different age groups and educational institutions first assembled at the Burhan Wani Chowk, where they heard motivational songs as well as brief speeches by elders on the Kashmir freedom struggle.
The event was organised by Kashmiri activists Uzair Ahmed Ghazali, Mushtaq-ul-Islam and their colleagues.
Although most participants were drawn from educational institutions set up in the camps of Kashmiri refugees, some state-run schools also sent their students to take part in the demonstration.
Most of the participants were carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans on different angles of the longstanding dispute, including India’s denial of fundamental rights of the Kashmiris and unrelenting atrocities on them, as well as the international community’s silence on the alarming situation in the occupied territory.
“We condemn torture of Kashmiri students by Indian troops,” read one of the banners.
Some of the students chained themselves while others covered their eyes with black bands to symbolise the terror unleashed by Indian troops in held Kashmir.
One group was holding an enlarged picture of a man tied by Indian troops to the bonnet of a jeep with a caption, reading: “Humans are not shields; it is a severe crime in any law.”
Several placards reminded the United Nations of its seemingly forgotten obligations with regard to the longest pending item on its agenda — the Kashmir dispute.
“Wake up UN,” read one such placard, being carried by a boy, who appeared hardly five years old.
AJK’s Minister for Education Barrister Iftikhar Ali Gillani also attended the demonstration for some time. Holding a placard, he sat cross-legged on the roundabout with dozens of other adult participants.
From Burhan Wani Chowk, the students marched through the main road towards the UN Military Observers Mission ahead of Domel, braving hot and humid weather.
“Go India, go back; we want freedom,’’ chanted the participants, loudly and repeatedly, while raising their hands aloft.
They also vented anger at Indian premier Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh.
“Down with killer Modi, down with Rajnath,” they shouted.
However, no memorandum or protest note was handed over to the UN observers. Talking to journalists on the occasion, participants said they were expressing their love, affection, sympathies and solidarity with their brethren across the divide, particularly in the wake of successive crackdowns on educational institutions by Indian army.
“We salute our brothers and sisters, who are waging a heroic struggle in spite of the worst ever repression. Their blood will not go in vain,” said Imsha Sajjad, a 7th grade student.
Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2017