Sunday, October 29, 2017
Toronto: Like Kashmiris and their friends around the world, Canadians too observed Kashmir ‘Black Day’ in Toronto, Canada.
At a well attended conference on October 28, Canadians from all walks of life that included members of the Kashmiri community as well as others such as Canadian peace activists and journalists were at hand to observe Kashmir ‘Black Day’.
In his welcoming remarks, Zafar Bangash, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought and Convenor, Friends of Kashmir Committee briefly touched on the significance of the day.
He explained why the Kashmiris observe October 27 as ‘Black Day’.
The last ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh had already fled Srinagar, the state capital, because of the people’s uprising but under Indian coercion he ‘signed’ what is referred to as the ‘Instrument of Accession’ on October 27, 1947.
This spurious document that has never been seen in public, was used as pretext to ‘allow’ Indian troops to land in Srinagar to occupy the city as well as begin the long occupation of the state itself.
According to historian Alistair Lamb, Indian troops were already in Kashmir at the time the so-called accession instrument was signed. In fact, it was drafted by the Indians and put before the maharaja to sign who had already fled and thus abdicated his responsibilities as ruler.
Thus, he had no authority to sign away the future of the Muslim majority state.
Even so, the last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten as well as Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru pledged that this was a ‘temporary arrangement’ and that as soon as law and order were restored, a UN-supervised referendum would be held to determine the wishes of the people.
That promise repeated on several occasions by Indian rulers, and enshrined in numerous Security Council resolutions, remains unfulfilled.
Further light was shed on the importance of observing ‘Black Day’ by Salma Rafique who herself is from Indian Occupied Kashmir. She not only highlighted the background of the day but also reminded the participants of article 1, section 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that states, inter alia: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
To India’s lasting shame, this right has been denied to the people of Kashmir for 70 years.
Canadian peace and human rights activist Barry Weisleder who is Federal Secretary of Socialist Action and co-editor of Socialist Action newspaper, lent his voice to the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people as did Sukhmider Singh Hansra, President of the Shrimoni Akali Dali Armitsar.
Dr Ali Mallah, a long time activist for justice and peace called for unity among the oppressed including the First Nations people in Canada to secure their rights. He challenged the Canadian Labour movement to step forward and assume its responsibility of speaking on behalf of the oppressed worldwide whether in Kashmir or Palestine.
While Kashmiris remain under a brutal Indian occupation and suffer as a consequence, religious minorities that are citizens of India also face the wrath of Hindu fascists.
There is an alarming rise in Hindu fascism since the ascension of Narendra Modi to power in India. Modi cut his political teeth with the Hindu extremist outfit, the RSS whose signature mark is targeting Muslims in India.
Not surprisingly, India has become a very unsafe place for Muslims, Sikhs and Christians as well as women and Dalits. The last group is condemned to a life of perpetual degradation and humiliation.
The program concluded with presentation of a resolution calling upon the United Nations and the global community to uphold the principle of self-determination for the people of Kashmir.
There was also a video presentation of Indian troop brutalities against the Kashmiri people.
Despite such oppression, the people of Kashmir have not been cowed down and continue to resist their occupiers with their bare hands.