MUZAFFARABAD: Thousands of people, mostly youngsters, took an overnight break in the town of Garhi Dupatta on Saturday evening after marching some 20km on foot through the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar Highway.
Earlier, they resumed their ‘freedom march’, under the aegis of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), towards the restive Line of Control (LoC) from the state capital at about 11am, chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
The marchers had started their journey in vehicles and motorbikes from different parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Friday morning and had spent the night in Muzaffarabad after reaching here by or past midnight.
At about 10am on Saturday, they assembled at Upper Adda — a hub of political gatherings since long — from where they resumed their march towards Chakothi sector.
“Kashmir banega khudmukhtar (Kashmir will become an independent state),” was the frequently chanted slogan by the marchers, who were holding portraits of guerrilla leader Maqbool Butt, former JKLF chairman late Amanullah Khan and current chairman Yasin Malik.
“UN: Kashmir seeks your urgent attention,” read a large banner being held by the marchers in the front row.
“UN take over the control of entire state of Jammu and Kashmir to hold a plebiscite therein,” read some placards.
As the marchers walked through the Bank Road, rose petals were showered on them by trader leaders Shaukat Nawaz Mir and Abbas Qadri.
On Friday, two AJK ministers had also held a meeting with JKLF leaders, reiterating their appeal that the marchers should not go close to the LoC, let alone making an attempt to cross it.
In response, the JKLF leaders had assured the team that they would remain completely peaceful throughout the journey to the LoC.
Mohammad Rafiq Dar, central spokesperson for the JKLF, told Dawn that the UN Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan had also contacted them the other day to ascertain their stance.
“Apart from apprising the UN observers of the objectives of the peaceful march, we reiterated our organisation’s demand to the UN to send peacekeeping forces to take control of entire state and create an atmosphere conducive to a UN-sponsored referendum,” he said.
The UN was also reminded of its Resolution number 47, para 2 passed on April 21, 1948 which declared the LoC crossing a lawful activity, he said.
Mr Dar said the JKLF had also demanded of the UN to persuade India and Pakistan not to use force to quell this peaceful march.
On Saturday, the marchers were also angry at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s early morning tweet, wherein he had maintained that any attempt to cross the LoC would amount to playing into the hands of Indian narrative.
“We reject the notions of both countries; of India that we are holding this march at the behest of Pakistan, and of Pakistan that we are playing into the hands of India,” Mr Dar said.
“It is our own indigenous initiative and neither do we need certificates from nor are we agents of any of the two countries. We are the agents of our Kashmiri Nation,” he added.
Tahir Mahmood, a jeweller who had joined the march from Kotli, said PM Khan’s tweet was uncalled-for because the Kashmiris had taken this step “at the end of their tether”.
“First we waited for his speech to the UN General Assembly. And now more than a week after his speech is there any change in the situation across the LoC,” he said.
“And since there is no change, why he wants us to sit at home and watch killing and torture of our brethren silently.”
Sheharyar Ahmed, a second year student in Tetrinote village of Hajira sector, said PM Khan’s statement had hurt the Kashmiris.
“What the prime minister has done after his return from the UN? Does he want us to believe that mere speech can overthrow Indian occupation of Kashmir,” he questioned.
Meanwhile, heavy contingents of police had taken positions in Chinari to meet any eventuality.
At Jiskool, a spot located little ahead of Chinari and 8km before the LoC, containers were placed by the administration on the main road to block it for all kinds of vehicles.
Apart from the containers, electricity poles, mounds of earth and barbed wires were also spread on the sides of containers to prevent circumvention by the persons on foot.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2019