MUZAFFARABAD: Hundreds of women and children marched on a thoroughfare here on Monday to condemn the fresh wave of brutal acts in India-held Kashmir, particularly the chopping of women’s braids.
The protesters, drawn from different camps of post-1990 migrants, gathered outside the press club at about 10.30am, with banners and placards inscribed with anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.
“We strongly and unanimously condemn the acts of braid-chopping in occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” read a big banner.
Another banner that was laid on the ground with cross marks had the portraits of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and army chief Gen Bipin Rawat.
It was torched outside the office of UN Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan near Domail, the confluence of the Neelum and Jhelum rivers, where the rally ended.
“We want freedom; we will get freedom,” shouted the participants as they marched through the main road.
“Go back India, go back,” was another oft-repeated chant.
Attacks termed Indian conspiracy to undermine struggle against occupation
According to international media reports, more than 200 cases of braid-chopping have been reported over the past six weeks in India-held Kashmir. A number of victims were also attacked and drugged before their hair was cut off.
Held Kashmir police as well as extremist pro-India groups allege that the “radical elements” were perpetrating this act “to disturb peace, create animosity between people and security forces and build an atmosphere of fear among women”.
Police have offered up to Rs600,000 in the Indian currency for information about the culprits, media reports say.
However, rejecting their stance, the ‘Joint Resistance Leadership’ — comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik — has been pointing out that the braid-cutting attacks are part of New Delhi’s conspiracy to undermine the ongoing struggle against its illegal rule in the region.
The protesters in Muzaffarabad said they had reason to believe that these acts were being perpetrated at the behest of the Indian government, which wanted to divert attention from the basic demand of Kashmiris — freedom.
“We are sure that India is involved in these ghastly acts,” said Uzair Ahmed Ghazali, whose Pasban-i-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir (PHJK) had organised the demonstration.
While speaking to demonstrators, he maintained that following the courageous participation of women in anti-India demonstrations across the held territory, Indian intelligence agencies had resorted to this cowardly practice to create scare among the womenfolk on the one hand and divert the attention of the entire freedom-seeking community from their primary cause on the other.
Farhat Qureshi, a government servant from the post-1990 refugees, said the lives and honour of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri women were at risk at the hands of savage Indian troops.
“Kashmiri women are the soft targets of the Indian army and braid-chopping is a new tool of the Indian army to break the will of Kashmiri women, but it will also fail,” she said.
Riffat Aziz, AJK legislator from Jamaat-i-Islami, called upon the international community to take stock of the situation in held Kashmir.
“Today we are here to awaken the conscience of the international community. The rights of the human beings most of the world powers frequently talk about are being brazenly violated by India’s occupation machinery in Kashmir. How long they will remain silent?” she asked.
A veiled participant said she had joined the demonstration to condemn Indian terrorism in occupied Kashmir.
“I call upon the United Nations and big powers to do the needful before it is too late,” she said.
Prominent among others who also spoke on the occasion were Mushtaqul Islam, Chaudhry Mahmoodul Hassan, Hamza Shaheen, Usman Ali and Chaudhry Nazir Sani.
On Oct 9, a similar demonstration to condemn the incidents of braid-chopping was organised by PHJK in a Kashmiri migrants’ camp near Muzaffarabad.
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017