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Kashmir Solidarity Day: What is the separatist protest and how is it observed?

Kashmir Solidarity Day: What is the separatist protest and how is it observed?

Kashmir Solidarity Day has been observed in Pakistan on 5 February every year since 1990.

The occasion is an annual demonstration of Pakistan’s support for the people of the disputed northern territory of Jammu and Kashmir, administered by India since partition in 1947.

It provides a platform for the expression of support for Kashmiri separatists living in one of the most highly-militarised zones in the world and an opportunity to remember those killed in the three wars between India and Pakistan over the region – in 1947, 1965 and 1999 – and during the region’s frequent border skirmishes.

A one-minute silence will be held on Tuesday, a public holiday, at 10am local time in honour of the dead. President Arif Alvi will address the Legislative Assembly in Muzaffrabad while human chains will be formed at the border towns of Kohala, Mangla, Holar and Azad Pattan.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi visited Srinagar on 3 February under heavy security to inaugurate a string of infrastructure projects and call for unity against terrorism while the separatist Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) called for a general strike in protest at Mr Modi’s presence.

“A person who, in his pursuit of crushing Kashmiri resistance, ordered killings and the damaging of properties, hurt the Kashmiri economy and ordered other oppressive measures, deserves only a protest from those he has oppressed”, the JRL said in a statement.

Violence most recently erupted in December 2018 when seven civilians were killed and 40 injured when Indian troops pursuing militants ran into marching demonstrators, who were accused of throwing stones at the military to help the rebels escape. Three militants and a soldier were also killed in the clashes and another member of the armed forces wounded. 

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It was hoped the election of former cricketer Imran Khan as Pakistan’s prime minister in July last year would herald a new dawn for the Muslim-majority Himalayan region and Mr Khan initially sought to strike a concilliatory note: “If India takes one step towards us, we will take two.”

The eruption of a war of words between ambassadors at the UN just a month later seemed to suggest an unwelcome return to business as usual.

The recent history of the region has been littered with such disappointments. After decades of competing claims, violence, accusations and counter-accusations, relations between India and Pakistan improved substantially during Mr Modi’s first two years in power, boding well for talks on the future of Kashmir.

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But this brief period of harmony came to an end in 2016 following a spate of attacks on Indian diplomatic and military assets in response to the killing of Burhan Wani, leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant organisation.

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