Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday paid tribute to Kashmiris on Youm-i-Shuhada-i-Kashmir (Kashmir Martyrs Day), saying they had kept the "flame of freedom" alive despite Indian aggression.
It was on July 13, 1931, when tens of hundreds of Kashmiris had gathered outside the premises of Central Jail in Srinagar where Abdul Qadeer, a resident of British India, was being tried on the charge of sedition, for inciting Kashmiris against the Dogra ruler at a gathering in Khanqah-i-Muallah on June 21, the same year.
At the time of midday prayer, one of the crowd members stood to make a call to prayer and was shot dead by the police. He was succeeded by another member who met the same fate. In all, 22 men rose to complete the call to prayer and all were shot dead.
Kashmir Martyrs Day also used to be observed in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). However, in December 2019, four months after revoking the special status of the occupied valley, the BJP government removed this day from the territory’s official holiday list.
In a tweet paying tribute to Kashmiris, PM Shehbaz said: "Kashmir Martyrs Day is a reminder of sacrifices Kashmiris have rendered for their inalienable and UN-sanctioned right to self-determination. The flame of freedom from the Indian yoke has been kept alive by generations of Kashmiris in the face of Indian tyranny and oppression."
The premier's son, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, also paid tribute to the people of IIOJK. "Our hearts beat with the brave Kashmiris."
Pakistan urges India to halt state terrorism in occupied Kashmir
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office (FO) said in a statement that the government and people of Pakistan were observing Martyrs Day and paying homage to the 22 Kashmiris who rendered the "ultimate sacrifice while braving the indiscriminate force unleashed on them in 1931 by the Dogra forces".
"On this sombre day, we join our Kashmiri brethren on either side of the Line of Control in commemorating the contribution of the martyrs of 1931," the FO said.
However, it regretted that Kashmiris were still struggling against India's illegal occupation.
"Even today, the 900,000-strong Indian occupation forces continue to hold hostage the Kashmiri people under the worst form of military siege to perpetuate their wrongful occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.
"India’s illegal and unilateral actions of August 5, 2019 were yet another attempt to strip the Kashmiri people of their distinct identity and turn them into a minority in their own land," the FO said.
The FO statement went on to say that more than 640 Kashmiris have been martyred in extra-judicial killings since then while 120 have been "martyred in cold blood" this year alone.
"In 2020, hurting the sentiments of the Kashmiris, India scrapped the regional public holiday on Kashmir Martyrs Day which had been observed every year since 1948. India also discontinued the traditional guard of honour ceremony at the Martyrs Graveyard.
"As we honour the invaluable sacrifice of the heroes of 1931 as well as all innocent Kashmiris who have laid down their lives in this just struggle, Pakistan once again urges India to immediately halt its state terrorism in IIOJK, cease all human rights violations, release all political prisoners, lift the inhuman military siege, stop its attempts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory, and let the Kashmiri people exercise their legitimate right to self-determination," the statement said.
The FO also called upon the international community, global human rights organisations and the UN to take notice of the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in the IIOJK and ensure peaceful resolution of the dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.