Srinagar was painted in green and black and chants of “we want freedom” shattered the Monday morning silence as thousands marched towards the UN office. A row over a small piece of land had turned into a full-fledged movement for freedom. And with warring separatists coming together, the call had become louder.
Slogan-shouting protestors waving religious and black flags shouted: “Aiy zaalimo, aiy kaafiro, Kashmir hamara chhod do (Tyrants and oppressors, leave our Kashmir)”, as they marched past police barricades near the UN office where they wanted to submit a memorandum. They were not allowed.
Reacting to this, moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said: “We are not going to submit the memorandum. Either the whole nation will go there or none else shall go.”
However, Javaid Ahmad Mir and Zaffar Akbar Bhat, along with around 100 supporters, managed to enter and submit the memorandum.
In the morning, separate rallies were being led by the Mirwaiz, Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik, Naeem Khan and others. But as they converged at Moulana Azad Road, it was an instant flashback to 1990, when tens of thousands chanting pro-freedom slogans would march daily.
Addressing the throngs, the Mirwaiz asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to take note of the crisis in Kashmir. He urged the governments of India and Pakistan to initiate a dialogue that could include Kashmiris.
Malik said it was a peoples’ movement and there was no way out other than complete independence.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani led a separate rally from his Hyderpora residence; it took him four hours to reach. “I appeal to UN to send its forces to Jammu and Kashmir to protect us and Muslims of Jammu,” he said.
The hardline leader also appealed to the international media to “come and cover the events in Kashmir…The Indian media does not cover Kashmir properly. They black out events”.
The rally may have ended at 3 pm but pro-freedom slogans continued well into the evening.