The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) on Monday asked the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government to remove the containers at the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar Highway which had obstructed the movement of their march towards the Line of Control (LoC) since Sunday, warning that the marchers would otherwise continue to stage a sit-in before the hurdles for “an indefinite period”.
“The AJK government should remove the hurdles and allow the marchers to cross the ceasefire line (LoC) or else the sit-in will continue at this place for an indefinite period,” said Mohammad Rafiq Dar, central spokesperson for JKLF, at a press conference in Jiskool, located 8 kilometres before the LoC, where the administration had placed containers, barbed wires, electricity poles and mounds of earth to block the march.
“Otherwise, the government should bring here any special representative of the United Nations Secretary General as well as representatives of the five permanent UN Security Council members so that we are able to give them our charter of demands,” added Dar, who was flanked by JKLF’s ailing acting chairman Abdul Hameed Butt and other leaders.
“How can we lead a normal life here when our brothers and sisters across the ceasefire line are going through nightmarish conditions at the hands of the Indian army,” he questioned.
The JKLF spokesman said the best option in the prevailing situation was the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces in Jammu and Kashmir until a plebiscite was held to ascertain the opinion of Kashmiris about their future.
He said other demands would be shared soon in the shape of a memorandum.
The JKLF led marchers had reached Jiskool on Sunday afternoon to be greeted by the road blockades. While a majority of them returned to Chinari and other rear areas to spend the night, the leaders and many others took shelter under a big canopy that was erected on the main road late at night.
On Sunday night, two AJK cabinet members had also tried to convince the JKLF leaders to call off their march, but to no avail.
On Monday, participants of the march once again assembled at Jiskool. Armed police personnel stood guard on top of the containers as well as on roadside mountains.
Among the participants was a 15-year-old boy, Umar Jamil from Khuiratta tehsil of Kotli district. “I have been part of this march for the past four days [...] I have only one aim, to break this dividing line and reach Srinagar,” said the teenager, who was wearing a green shawl to keep himself warm on a cold windy day.
Shaukat Nawaz Mir, a trade leader from Muzaffarabad who was with the marchers, claimed that he had not seen this much passion and energy among the participants of any Kashmir-related event in the recent past.
By midday, police allowed a small procession from Chakothi to circumvent the obstacles and offer food and fresh fruits to the marchers, video clips shared on social media showed.
In Muzaffarabad, official sources said AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider chaired a meeting on the issue in his office, with Legislative Assembly Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir, AJK Information Minister Mushtaq Minhas and other officials concerned among the participants.