Kashmiris protest New Delhi on Indian Independence Day
Rallies, demonstrations held across Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, elsewhere in the world marking 'Black Day'
Kashmiris across Pakistani and Azad Kashmir on Thursday observed India’s 73rd Independence Day as a "Black Day" to protest New Delhi’s withdrawal of the decades-long special rights of the disputed Jammu Kashmir region, local media reported.
Thousands gathered at rallies and protests in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, including its capital Muzzafarabad, plus the towns of Bagh, Rawlakot, Kotli, and Mirpur, to denounce India’s move last week.
In Pakistan, the Black Day was observed on the government level with national flags hoisted half-mast at parliament, the presidential and prime ministerial residences, and other government buildings, state-run Pakistan Television reported. Government ministers, parliamentarians, and politicians also attended rallies in various parts of the country.
Rallies and demonstrations were held by political parties and civil society groups in the capital Islamabad as well as Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, and other districts to express solidarity with Kashmiris.
In Bolan in the southwestern Balochistan province, the local Hindu community held a rally to condemn India’s decision and show solidarity with Kashmiris, regional broadcaster Geo News reported.
Pakistan also asked its citizens around the world to join Kashmiris in their protest of India’s decision.
Renewed protests coincide with a special UN Security Council (UNSC) session on Friday to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Himalayan valley on Islamabad’s request.
According to Islamabad, this is the first time when a special UNSC session was summoned on Kashmir in the last 50 years.
Mounting tensions between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have further flared after New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, which is divided between the two neighbors in parts with both claiming it in full.
Kashmiri leaders and citizens fear this step is an attempt by the Indian government to change the demography of the Muslim-majority state, where some groups have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
In related developments, Pakistan has also downgraded diplomatic relations with India, suspended trade and expelled the Indian high commissioners.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir, in addition to a three-week-long Kargil skirmish in 1999.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.