Toronto Rally and March Defends the Rights of the Kashmiri People
More than 250 people participated in a rally and march at the Ontario legislature on October 19, to affirm the right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination in the face of a brutal military occupation and lock-down by the Indian state which has lasted for more than 80 days. The action was held on the eve of the federal election to demand that whichever party comes to power, it must speak out and condemn the Indian government’s brutal campaign of state-terror and violence in Kashmir. India launched this assault after Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, giving Kashmir a degree of autonomy, was rescinded, on August 5 by the Modi government.
Speakers at the rally noted that while Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is busy in the Lima Group trying to overthrow the Maduro government in Venezuela under the bogus claim that it is violating the human rights of the Venezuelan people, the Canadian government has been silent when actual human rights crimes are being committed against the Kashmiri people by the Indian state. Others noted that the silence of the Canadian state and media is directly related to the economic relations and investments that Canada has in India and the cozy relationship between Justin Trudeau and Narendra Modi.
A few speakers highlighted the historic oppression of the Indian state against the Kashmiri people. One person pointed out that since 1947, the Indian state has been responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Kashmiris who were resisting the violence and occupation of the Indian military in their state. It was noted that currently more than one million Indian troops are in Kashmir carrying out atrocities with impunity, including abducting youth, gang-raping women and using tear gas and pellets against the resistance.
Speakers also noted that the decision of the Modi government to scrap Article 370 means that the provision that bars non-Kashmiris from buying land in the state has been eliminated. They warned that the Modi government plans to re-settle non-Kashmiris in large numbers in the state and in this way, it hopes to quash once and for all the Kashmiri people’s striving for over 70 years for self-determination. It was also highlighted that this unilateral move by the Modi government means that the central government has set a new normal when it comes to acting with impunity against the people.
The rally also featured a cultural element. The poet Izzat Saleem recited two poems, one of which she addressed to the UN, calling on everyone to raise their voices in support of the Kashmiri people.
The painter Haris Sheik presented his mural entitled “Curfew” which depicts the state of siege in Kashmir and the determination of the people to defend their right to be.
The most important point made was that the Kashmiris will not be silenced and that it is they who will determine their future through their collective resistance and fight for their rights. The participants then walked a short distance around Queen’s Park shouting slogans such as “Indian Army Out of Kashmir!”, “Hands Off Kashmir!”, “No to Human Rights Violations in Kashmir!”