MUZAFFARABAD: Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) protested the atrocities unleashed by New Dehli in the occupied region amid an increase in the intensity of “search and cordon operations” by the Indian forces in Srinagar and its surroundings, as India marked the 76th anniversary of its independence.
In Muzaffarabad, a rally was taken out under the aegis of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir government and Pasban-i-Hurriyat Jammu Kashmir (PHJK), an organisation of post-1989 migrants from held Kashmir, to remind the international community that there was no place for India in the hearts of the Kashmiris.
Participants of the rally were wearing black armbands and walked from Burhan Wani Chowk to Garhi Pan Chowk, holding black flags.
“India’s Independence Day is Black Day for people of Jammu and Kashmir,” read a banner carried by protesters.
“India’s Independence Day has always been a ‘black day’ for the Kashmiris because they celebrate their freedom in brazen denial of the same privilege to the Kashmiris [in occupied region]. They also subject them to war crimes,” PHJK chief Uzair Ahmed Ghazali said on the occasion.
Mr Ghazali said the Indian government had recently launched an “abhorrent campaign” in held Kashmir whereby it was forcing Kashmiris to buy and hoist the Indian flag on their houses, educational institutions, and business centres.
“Those families whose one or the other member has lost life in state-sponsored terrorism are particularly being coerced to hoist Indian flags in an extreme form of tyranny,” he said. “If that campaign does not stop there, we will start a drive to tear, trample and burn India’s flags here in the liberated territory and elsewhere in the world,” he said.
Altaf Ahmed Butt, an AJK-based pro-freedom leader whose elder brother Zaffar Akbar Butt has been in jail since 2018, told Dawn that even though India had put numerous curbs on the oppressed Kashmiris to keep them disconnected from the rest of the world, reports suggested that a shutter down strike was observed in the region to denounce India’s Independence Day.
Ahead of this year’s Independence Day, he said, Indian authorities launched a “Tiranga (tricolor flag) hoisting drive”. Kashmiris were asked to not only hoist the Indian flag but also post its pictures on their social media accounts, he said and added that at least 40 Kashmiris were sacked from government services, including a son of Syed Salahuddin and spouse of incarcerated Farooq Dar alias Bitta Karate, as a part of a crackdown on Kashmiri Muslims.
Meanwhile, in a statement, AJK Prime Minister Sardar Tanvir Ilyas said that observance of India’s Independence Day by Kashmiris as a ‘black day’ was an open expression of their “hatred and condemnation against India’s illegal and forcible control over their motherland”.
Cordon and search operations by security forces intensified in and around Srinagar where a shutter down strike was observed on the day India won freedom.
In a telling picture of what appeared to be Srinagar’s Lal Chowk city square, a man painted in the colour of the Indian national flag could be seen posing victoriously against a background of empty streets and shops with shutters down.
Traditionally, Kashmiris opposed to Indian rule in their state have celebrated August 14 with fervour and August 15 with protests. Going by scant reports out of the valley on Monday, unlike the previous years, the crackdown appears to have been severe.