On Saturday August 10, Stand with Kashmir, Kashmir Gulposh, and Toronto Kashmir Coalition led a rally as part of an international week of solidarity with the people of Kashmir, who are facing extreme violence from the state of India.
Last week Indian Prime Minister Modi’s government revoked articles 370 & 35A of the Indian constitution. This means that the special status granted to the region of Jammu and Kashmir (i.e., allowing for basic autonomy, a separate flag, separate constitution, etc.) no longer exists, and that Kashmir will now be forced to abide exclusively by Indian laws.
Most are calling out this move as an extreme act of colonization. The control of Kashmir is being done to silence dissenting voices and inflict state violence. After the announcement, Modi’s government not only closed down schools and shut down tourism in the Kashmir area, but cut off the internet and phone lines to cause an intentional massive media blackout that has left many without the ability to communicate with their loved ones.
They’ve also arrested and detained more than 500 political and independence leaders. There’s no way to protest nor assemble without violent backlash from the occupying state forces. This has not only led to many arrests, but a high death toll and a high number of disappearances seen since the occupation began; the decision to revoke these articles was made without consultation or input from the people.
“We are here today to demand justice for our missing, tortured, murdered, blinded, criminalized, disappeared, displaced, dispossessed relations. We are here today as we remember our relations in unmarked mass graves. We are here today to send love, prayers, and healing energy to our relations in Kashmir. The Indian government has cut them off from the rest of the world, they have silenced them. 14.7 million voices put under house arrest. They have not been able to speak to the rest of the world for seven days now. We are here today to let the world know that the government is brutally killing Kashmiri’s under a fascist, colonial, military regime.”– rally speaker
Protestors chanted “Oh hey, no no, the Indian occupation has got to go!”, and throughout the day many chanted “Azaadi!” which translates to “Freedom!” from Hindi. Another speaker also shared that she hasn’t heard from her family in seven days due to the blackout, and her story was echoed by many attendees who also fear for their family’s safety.
In Canada, the Liberal government has still not released an official statement about the issue, and solidarity rallies have been scheduled across Toronto and the world in the upcoming weeks. The organizers of the event hope to spread awareness about the colonial violence and genocide in Kashmir, to put pressure on the Canadian government to discuss what is happening in Kashmir at the upcoming G20 summit, and to get the Canadian government to advocate for the rights of the Kashmir people with their international platform.