KARACHI.: Pakistan will observe a black day on Thursday (today), on the occasion of India’s Independence Day, to condemn the illegal annexation of the Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by New Delhi and express solidarity with the people of the disputed territory in the wake of the humanitarian crisis that has developed there following 10 consecutive days of curfew and communications blockade.
The black day will be observed by flying the national flag at half-mast and staging rallies across the country.
Pakistan celebrated its own Independence Day on Wednesday as Kashmir Solidarity Day to reaffirm its support to the Kashmiris being subjected to atrocities at the hands of the occupying Indian forces.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, in an illegal attempt to change the demography of the disputed territory, stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status by revoking Article 370 of the Indian constitution, paving the way for outsiders to buy land and settle in the occupied valley.
India cut communications and imposed a curfew in the valley on August 4, a day before its surprise presidential decree to strip the region of its special status.
The communication blackout continued for the 10th straight day on Wednesday as Internet and telephone links remained cut off, with strict restrictions on the media.
The continuous curfew has caused a severe shortage of essential commodities including food items and life-saving medicines in the valley.
Tens of thousands of troop reinforcements have been deployed to the main city of Srinagar and other towns and villages, turning the picturesque city into a deserted warren of barbed wire and barricades.
However, the lockdown has not completely prevented protests.
According to residents around 8,000 people took part in a demonstration after Friday prayers, with security forces firing tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns to break up the rally.
The occupying forces eased restrictions temporarily on Sunday to let residents buy food and supplies for Eid. But security was tightened again after protests involving hundreds of people during the day.
Police vans roamed the streets late on Sunday ordering people to stay indoors.
For Eid on Monday, the Himalayan region’s biggest mosque, the Jama Masjid, was ordered shut and people were only allowed to pray in smaller local mosques so that no big crowds could gather.
Footage filmed by AFP on Monday showed hundreds of people protesting in the Soura area of Srinagar, shouting slogans such as “We want freedom” and “India go back”. Three helicopters continuously hovered over the area as protesters jeered and shook fists at the aircraft.
On Tuesday the Indian government confirmed for the first time that clashes took place, blaming them on “miscreants” and saying its forces reacted with “restraint”.
Almost all Hurriyat leaders, including Syed Ali Gilani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, remain under house arrest or in jails, while over 900 political leaders and workers, even pro-India politicians including Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Engineer Abdur Rasheed and Sajjad Lone, have been detained.
Preparations are in full swing to gather thousands of people in London to protest against the repealing of the special status of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The anti-India protest will be held outside the Indian High Commission in London to express solidarity with the besieged people of the valley.
Addressing a press conference, the coordinator of the August 15 anti-India protest and United Kingdom Tehreek-e-Kashmir (TeK) President Raja Fahim Kayani said they had been working since the last six days to convince British Kashmiris, Pakistanis and Sikhs to come out of their homes and observe the black day.
“All political, social and non-governmental organisation workers have been working around the clock in Birmingham, Luton, Bradford, Manchester, Nottingham Watford, London and other areas of South East England to make the anti-India protest a story of success,” said Kayani.
“Buses and coaches have been arranged to ferry maximum protesters to London on August 15. Following the siege of more than 10 million people of IOK since August 5 nobody knows what is happening in the streets of Srinagar,” Kayani said, adding that women and children from both Sikh and Muslim communities will also join the protest to show their concern against New Delhi’s illegal and unconstitutional move in IOK.
The TeK president also expressed anger and said that the protest will expose the fascist regime in India, under which more than 10 million Muslims were not allowed to practice their religious rights on Eidul Azha.
He said the protest in London aims to create a global pressure on New Delhi to lift the siege and curfew in IoK where people are facing food and medicine shortages.
This is the first time the locking up of mosques and other religious places has taken place since the last 70 years.
The protest will begin at noon on August 15 in London.
World Sikh Parliament President Ranjit Singh also condemned the Indian government’s illegal annexation of occupied Kashmir.
With additional input from AFP