Black flags flutter along with national and Kashmir flags on Faizabad Bridge on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Black flags flutter along with national and Kashmir flags on Faizabad Bridge on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

MUZAFFARABAD: Rallies and protest demonstrations were held across Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Thursday to observe India’s independence day as ‘black day’.

Shops and businesses remained shut and traffic thin on roads with people from almost all walks of life questioning India’s right to celebrate independence while denying internationally acknowledged inalienable right to self-determination to the Kashmiris despite repeated pledges by its founding fathers.

“We have been observing Aug 15 as black day since long but today is the blackest day because India has broken all records of terrorism, barbarism, deceit and deception in occupied Kashmir,” said Shaukat Nawaz Mir, a leader of traders, at the deserted Bank Road.

Today is blackest day because India has broken all records of terrorism, barbarism and deception in held Kashmir, says leader of traders

“A country which has usurped our political, social, religious and democratic rights and turned a major portion of our motherland into a prison has no right to celebrate independence day,” said Khawaja Atif Bashir, a political activist, sitting outside his closed medical store outside a health facility.

The state capital also saw half a dozen rallies separately staged by different organisations to condemn India’s belligerence and obstinacy.

The biggest rally was held on the call of Hizbul Mujahideen from Azadi Chowk to Garhipan Chowk.

It was led by group’s deputy supreme commander Saifullah Khalid and some other leaders, including Shamsheer Khan, Abdullah Malick and Muhammad Azam Ghazi.

An All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Ishtiaq Hameed, Pasban-i-Hurriyat Jammu Kashmir chief Uzair Ahmed Ghazali, PPP leader Shaukat Javed Mir and Kashmir Liberation Cell’s secretary Mansoor Qadir Dar were also among the participants.

“Our path, our procedure is jihad,” and “We will snatch freedom from India,” were some of the slogans the participants chanted.

At the outset of the rally, organisers released dozens of balloons into the air and wrote condemnatory remarks on a large replica of India’s tricolor flag.

Speaking to the gathering, Mr Khalid said India’s unrelenting barbarity, injustices and deceptions had forced the people of occupied Kashmir to take up arms against its unlawful rule.

“We are engaged in the armed struggle for the past three decades and will continue it within the occupied territory, at all costs, until the eviction of the last Indian soldier,” he vowed.

He said there was not even an iota of doubt in the minds of Kashmiris about India’s ill intentions.

“They [India] want the land and not the people of Kashmir. Scrapping Article 35-A is aimed at changing the demography of the state in sheer violation of UN resolutions, charter and international laws,” he said.

Mr Khalid called upon Islamabad to lift “undue restrictions” on all Pakistani groups helping the Kashmiris overthrow Indian slavery.

“They had been fighting alongside us against India’s occupation army and should not have been meted out this treatment by Pakistan,” he said in a clear reference to the proscribed Jamaatud Dawah and Jaish-i-Muhammad.

Hizbul Mujahideen has not been banned by Pakistan despite India’s demands but the group has been maintaining a low profile in the wake of a crackdown on militant groups across the country. Its last activity in public was held in October last year.

Other speakers called upon the international community, particularly major powers, to intervene and persuade India to respect and implement UN resolutions for a peaceful solution to the lingering Kashmir issue.

Reports and visuals received from other major AJK cities and towns showed charged gatherings parading through the streets, while chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.

Lok Virsa observes black day

The Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan in collaboration with National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) Islamabad observed a black day to convey to the world that India’s occupation of Jammu and Kashmir was totally illegal, unjust and contrary to the Kashmiris’ aspirations.

Lok Virsa also screened documentaries on a large projector at Heritage Museum hall, highlighting the atrocities being committed by the Indian forces in held Kashmir.

An exhibition of photographs showing the plight of Kashmiris, particularly pellet gun victims including women and children, was also a part of the daylong activities.

The event aimed at highlighting atrocities committed by the Indian forces on the Kashmiri people struggling for their right to self-determination.

Banners inscribed with slogans in support of the Kashmir cause were also displayed at prominent locations at Lok Virsa in Shakarparian.

Rallies, seminars held in Rawalpindi

A black day was also observed in Rawalpindi against New Delhi’s action to annex India-held Kashmir.

Rallies, seminars and a photographic exhibition were held in different parts of the district. All government officers, officials and PTI local leadership attended the events.

The main rally was brought out from Commissioner Office to Ammar Chowk and was led by Commissioner Saqib Zafar. Punjab Minister for Informal Education Rashid Hafeez, PTI MNA Sheikh Rashid Shafique, MPA Chaudhry Adnan, Deputy Commissioner Ali Randhawa and representatives of traders attended the rally.

The participants were wearing black armbands, carrying placards inscribed with slogans in favour of the people of Kashmir and against India. They were chanting slogans against India and its government for annexing Kashmir.

The local administration installed banners and Kashmir flags on all roads and squares in the city.

Speaking on the occasion, the commissioner said the black day was observed to express solidarity with Kashmiris and to pay tributes to their struggle for their rights.

He said the world should take notice of the violations of human rights in Kashmir.

He said peace in the region would not be possible unless the issue of Kashmir was resolved.

Seminars were held in different colleges of the district in which the speakers highlighted the Kashmiris’ struggle for their right to self-determination and brutalities of Indian forces.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2019