London witnessed the Kashmir million-man march on 26th of October 2014. It happened just before Kashmiris around the world observe Black Day i.e., 27 October; the day of the year 1947 when Indian forces entered Kashmir and remain there till date.
It wouldn’t be wrong to contend that the Kashmir million march organised in London was a success for the human rights struggle of Kashmiri people and to project their voices internationally. Thousands of British Kashmiris, Pakistanis, and political and civil society groups gathered in the heart of London and marched towards Downing Street while demanding the fundamental right to self-determination for the people of the Jammu and Kashmir.
There are around 800,000 people who have an ethnic origin and heritage in AJK currently lawfully living in the UK (Centre for Just Peace and Democracy).Their contribution in resolving the Kashmir dispute is significant given the fact that the diaspora communities of Kashmir in Britain are very well established and have excelled in almost all walks of life in the UK.
We, being Pakistanis, feel a strong bond with the people of Jammu and Kashmir mainly on religious grounds. However, if we really want to help the Kashmiri people in their struggle for freedom, we have to distance our domestic politics from their freedom movement
The conflict of Kashmir is as old as the partition of the Indian subcontinent and it is considered as one of the oldest unresolved conflicts in the contemporary world. Politicians in both India and Pakistan have a history of using Kashmir dispute for their political gains and this trend is still quite visible. The Kashmir million march, which was primarily organised to promote human rights issues of the Kashmiris, gave a bad taste when some Pakistani politicians tried to hijack the rally and politicised it. At one point, the only voices that one could hear at the rally were traditional political slogans and jingles of the two dominant political parties in Pakistan – Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz. It certainly was a very wrong move by the workers of all the political parties who tried to dominate a protest which had entirely different aims and objectives.
The march, giving a political impression, is something which made the very people of Kashmir for whom the march was planned, to become indifferent about it. While some considered it to be a positive attempt of getting the burning issue some attention from the international community and thus, fully supported the idea; some of the Kashmiris had serious reservations over the political involvement in it. And then some of them really abhorred the idea of the march in the first place considering it a political move by PPP for their own vested interests in AJK justifying their point with the fact that such moves had been taken by many in the past as well but it could never lead to any real change or revolution in the Kashmir region. Bilawal Zardari’s appearance at the rally only proved it right; more so when he had been passing very strong statements on Kashmir recently, which not only made headlines but also strongly offended India.
The Kashmir struggle is to accentuate the sacrifices of tens of thousands of people from the state of Jammu and Kashmir who gave their lives fighting against an oppressive regime. It is a struggle to highlight and strengthen the unheard voices of Kashmiris terribly suffering under Indian occupation on a daily basis. It gives hope to the victims of Indian army’s brutalities that they are not alone in this struggle to protect and promote their fundamental rights.
We, being Pakistanis, feel a strong bond with the people of Jammu and Kashmir mainly on religious grounds. However, if we really want to help the Kashmiri people in their struggle for freedom, we have to distance our domestic politics from their freedom movement. Such attempts only undermine the real efforts that Pakistan and the Pakistanis have always been making to get the Kashmir dispute resolved by raising voices on the global level.
We can find a number of other issues within Pakistan to play our local politics but Kashmir issue requires human rights based movements to get the international community on board in order to pressurise the Indian government to find a peaceful solution for this conflict in accordance with the international laws and wishes of the people of entire J&K. Allowing our domestic politicians to participate in the international Kashmir rallies like the Kashmir million march can be fatal for the Kashmiris’ freedom movement – as hurling bottles and shoes at each other in political rivalry can’t be of any help to protect the human rights of Kashmiri people either. Indeed, their freedom is more important than the local politics of India and Pakistan.
Allowing our domestic politicians to participate in the international Kashmir rallies like the Kashmir million march can be fatal for the Kashmiris’ freedom movement – as hurling bottles and shoes at each other in political rivalry can’t be of any help to protect the human rights of Kashmiri people either
The Kashmir march could have turned out to be much better by avoiding the unnecessary chaos that took place. In that way, the message conveyed to the world about the Kashmir cause would have been stronger; that Pakistan stands ‘united’ with the people of Kashmir for their rights.
It is high time we realised that the Kashmir issue is to be resolved as per the will of Kashmiris. If we keep playing with it for our political gains, it will not only bring us shame especially in the eyes of the people of Kashmir but will most probably leave the dispute unresolved as well. Peace in the region cannot be attained unless Kashmir is resolved. In the end, all we should be doing is taking care of the sentiments of the people of Kashmir to whom the land actually belongs. Neither Pakistan nor India has the right to let them down or play with the already oppressed inhabitants of the land which the world knows as ‘heaven on earth’.
Note: This piece originally appeared in Pakistan Today