Denouncing the Centre’s move to abrogate Article 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), radical Sikh groups in Punjab came out in support of Kashmiris and decided to observe 'Black Day' on August 15 as India celebrates the 73rd Independence Day.
The hardline Sikh groups in Punjab such as Dal Khalsa (DK), United Akali Dal (UAD) and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) have been blaming the central government for trampling the rights of Sikhs and demanding ‘Khalistan’ since long.
Though the radical groups had been observing Independence Day as Black Day since 2008, this year, they decided to express solidarity with Kashmiris, who were living in curfew for the last 10 days. The protest would be held in 15 districts of Punjab.
Addressing a press conference at Tarn Taran district, DK spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh said, “It’s for the first time that we are taking up the subject of Kashmir, as the central government unconstitutionally revoked the two important Articles 370 and 35A in J&K. Earlier, our war was only about Khalistan, this time it is about our Kashmiri community too,” he added.
Kanwarpal further said that though Kashmiris were locked up in their houses owing to the curfew, he was in contact with the Kashmiri diaspora across the country and the world. “No Kashmiri would be joining our protest, as we don’t want them to be identified,” he clarified.
He added that they can relate to the situation of Kashmiris, as Punjab also witnessed similar clampdown during Operation Blue Star. “I remember how curfew was imposed in Punjab, crippling our lives. From June 3 to June 10, 1984, there was complete information blackout and we could not even step outside our lane,” he said.
Kanwarpal said the step by the Centre was a retrograde and a drastic one, which will have serious repercussions. “Kashmiris have been silenced at gunpoint. However, the hard fact is that there is strong resentment and anger among the Kashmiris and that is why the curfew is not being lifted,” he added.
SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann strongly came out in support of Kashmiris and said the manner in which the Narendra Modi government revoked Article 370 and 35A and locked people inside their houses was a sheer violation of the United Nations (UN) Charter. “PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have violated the UN resolution, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and also insulted the UNSC,” he claimed.
He also urged Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, its supporters and people in general to stop making derogatory and sexist remarks against Kashmiri women. “We know what happened during the 2002 anti-Muslim Godhra riots and how women were physically assaulted. I want to assure Kashmiris that in case of any emergency, they can take refuge in the gurdwaras. Sikhs will protect Kashmiris and we would open all gurdwaras for them,” he added.
Even UAD leader Gurdeep Singh Bathinda said they stand in solidarity with the Kashmiris. He stated that they want to send a message to the Centre against the manner in which the Kashmiris are kept under house arrest, through the protests.
He maintained that they would also bring up issues pertaining to Punjab such as the bogus closure report of CBI in the sacrilege case, prosecution of Dera Sirsa head and convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Maur Bomb Blast and the much-demanded arrest of former Director-General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini in Behbal Kalan firing case.
Earlier, the hardliners lashed out at SAD (Badal) for supporting Modi government’s move to strip J&K of its special status.
“Now that the Akalis led by SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal supported the Modi government in the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A from J&K, how can they talk about autonomy to Punjab? The Akalis had been the votary of Anandpur Sahib Resolution since 1973, which was its core agenda,” Kanwarpal said, adding that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP are simply pursuing its agenda of making India a Hindu nation, which would lead to serious consequences.
Kanwarpal who shares a friendly relation with Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said they were concerned that the rising tension between India and Pakistan would take a toll on Kartarpur Corridor.
Kusum Arora is a Jalandhar-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.