Protesters storm Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square in support of Kashmir
Hundreds of people took to the streets of Toronto this weekend in support of Kashmir, a long-disputed region of South Asia that was recently stripped of its statehood and autonomy by the Government of India.
Some 13 million people were left in lurch on August 5 when India not only revoked Kashmir's special status, but cut off all communication links between Kashmiri citizens and the outside world.
This, more than 60 years after approving a constitutional provision (Article 370) that allowed both Kashmir and neighbouring Jammu to govern themselves internally.
Human rights groups around the world have condemned the move, which India's Hindu nationalist government is defending as a way to spur economic development and investment within the Muslim-majority region.
Critics say that the revocation of Article 370 is unconstitutional, if not illegal, and warned ahead of the move that it would lead to serious unrest within the already-conflicted Himalayan territory.
In apparent anticipation of this exact thing, India's government sent thousands of extra military troops to Kashmir, severed internet connections, shut down mobile phone services and even cut off landlines, all without warning.
"We don't know what to expect. We are not allowed to get out of our houses. Telecommunications are all down. For the first time in 30 years they snapped landline connections as well," said Iltija Javed, the daughter of a former Kashmiri chief minister, to the New York Times.
"There is no way even ordinary Kashmiris here can like communicate with each other, and know what exactly is going on. Everybody is in a state of absolute shock and panic."
Javed's mother, Mehbooba Mufti, was arrested and taken into custody last week when Article 370 was revoked, along with as many as 500 other prominent Kashmiri politicians.
Protest in toronto against atrocities in Kashmir pic.twitter.com/aDa26unhID— Shazad (@Shazad21867341) August 11, 2019
Protests have reportedly been rampant in the region's largest city, Srinagar, despite a government-imposed lockdown.
BBC News and Al Jazeera report that Indian police have been using tear gas and "rubber-coated steel bullets" to disperse the crowds.
In Toronto (as well as such cities like Paris, Melbourne, Houston, Karachi and Delhi), the protests have been more peaceful — but no less passionate.
"Join us, wear red, and show India that Kashmiris are not alone! The world is watching," reads the event description for a protest that took place in Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday, organized jointly by Kashmir Gulposh and Stand With Kashmir.
"Kashmiris do not accept the illegal occupation or unilateral colonial impositions by India. Kashmiris are sovereign Indigenous people who have the right of self-determination and government," the event description continues.
"India must immediately restore internet, mobile and landlines, end curfew, demilitarize by sending troops home, end the occupation."
Roughly 300 people are estimated to have attended Saturday's protest at Yonge-Dundas Square, many of them carrying signs that call upon Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene.
Day 8. Siege.— Leena Ewald (@LeenaEwald) August 12, 2019
Today on Eid, I counted the places where in the last days protests against the Indian state and in solidarity with people in Kashmir had been organized.
Thousands of people gathered in more than 30 cities worldwide!
(Protest in Toronto, via #StandWithKashmir) pic.twitter.com/V35mRjGqwU
"Thank you Toronto for speaking on behalf of muted Kashmiri voices yesterday at this rally!" reads a Facebook post from the advocacy group Stand With Kashmir, which organized Toronto's protest on Saturday as well as many other international demonstrations.
"Toronto Stands With Kashmir."
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