Dateline Islamabad April 10, 2014
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ISLAMABAD, 10 April—Kashmiri and Pakistani youth on Thursday marked the 21st anniversary of the Lal Chowk massacre where India’s occupation army killed up to 47 people and burned homes and shops in an entire suburb of Srinagar.
The Youth Forum for Kashmir (YFK) and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) organized a memorial meeting in the Pakistani capital to commemorate the anniversary. The purpose of the event was to link human rights violations in Kashmir to the Indian elections and call on New Delhi to restrain the Indian military’s role in the disputed territory.
Two senior APHC leaders Altaf Hussain Wani and Syed Faiz Naqshbandi addressed the youth at the memorial, along with Ahmed Quraishi, the Executive Director of YFK.
YFK is Pakistan’s first pro-Kashmir lobbying group run by Kashmiri and Pakistani youth. The group is a platform that unites the youth in Indian-occupied Kashmir with their counterparts in Pakistan and AJK.
One of the most devastating incidents of its kind, on April 10, 1993, a large section of downtown Srinagar known as Lal Chowk was burned to the ground by Indian paramilitary troops. 47 innocent Kashmiri were burned alive.
In all, 59 houses, 190 shops, 53 stores where inventory was kept, two office buildings, five commercial buildings, two schools and a shrine inside the building were gutted by the fire.
The New York Times and Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented the massacre in detail.
The HRW reported that civilians it interviewed said the Indian Border Security troops prevented the authorities and paramedics from saving the lives of the injured.
“This is not the only incident,” APHC leader Syed Faiz Naqshbandi told the memorial meeting. “The Indian military and paramilitary forces had been systematically destroying houses, burning down shops, attacking shrines and even desecrating the Holy Quran.”
Speaking on the occasion, APHC leader Altaf Hussain Wani said the Lal Chowk Massacre was not an isolated incident but part of a pattern.
“Massacres like Lal Chowk and Sopore are consistent with the policy of repression and subjugation by the Government of India and its collaborators to silence the people’s resistance against the illegal occupation,” Wani said.
A young Pakistani volunteer asked the Kashmiri leader why it was important to remember Lal Chowk massacre and other important events in the history of Kashmir freedom movement.
“It is important that we remember these days because it gives us a moral boost to remember the sacrifices of the Kashmir freedom movement,” said Wani, and added, “not doing so would be an act of betrayal on our part of those mothers and families that gave their sons for the sacred cause of freedom.”
Ahmed Quraishi said Pakistanis should join Kashmiris in highlighting all the important days in the Kashmir freedom struggle against Indian occupation.
“Pakistan is one of those few countries in the world that continue to engage the world community on behalf of Kashmir freedom struggle. Together, the Kashmiri and Pakistani youth can take the story of Kashmiri freedom from Indian occupation to the next level,” he said.
The YFK is a grassroots lobbying group led by young Kashmiris and Pakistanis working to ensure justice to Kashmiris living under Indian military occupation.