Handwara (Jammu and Kashmir): Shouting pro-freedom slogans, thousands of people in a
north Kashmir hamlet Wednesday pledged not to throw stones at
security forces as long as the government did not curb peaceful
protests and took concrete steps towards solving the over
60-year-old Kashmir issue.
The public rally was organised by an independent lawmaker, Abdul
Rasheed, during the visit of academician Radha Kumar and
journalist Dilip Padgoankar -- two of the three-member Kashmir
interlocutors' group -- to Langate, over 130 km from Srinagar, in
the frontier district of Kupwara.
Men and women, mostly youth, who were present at the rally in the
premises of a school in Langate, raised their hands pledging to
shun stone throwing when the lawmaker asked if they were ready to
say no to violence.
But the pledge came with a rider. The security forces should not
stop peaceful protesters and the government should take "solid and
concrete steps" for resolving the Kashmir issue, Rasheed told IANS.
The organisers had unfurled three flags - red, white and black -
on the dais.
"Each flag, I mean the colour of each flag, carries a message,"
Rasheed told the visiting interlocutors while speaking at the
"White represents our desire for peace, black is for mourning the
thousands of deaths in the last two decades, particularly 112
protesters killed in the summer unrest.
"And the red is to show that we are ready for any sacrifice till
our political aspirations are met," said the lawmaker.
Rasheed asked the participants if they wanted to merge with
Pakistan -- and there was pin-drop silence. Also, nobody spoke
when he asked them if autonomy or self-rule was desirable. But
when he asked them if they wanted to be independent, the
participants shouted slogans in favour of azadi (freedom).
Some families of the victims of the 20-year-old violence were
seated in a pavilion and the interlocutors went to meet them. They
interacted with the visiting interlocutors.
Rasheed later told IANS that since people in his constituency have
pledged not to resort to violence, the "ball is in Delhi's court
"The government should now make sure that there will be no human
rights violations. Our peaceful demonstrations should not be met
with bullets from security forces. On this condition, the people
from my constituency have taken an oath not to indulge in stone
He said that he urged the interlocutors to ask New Delhi to start
a peaceful tripartite dialogue between India, Pakistan and
representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who should
also include Kashmiri militant leaders.
Radha Kumar, who also spoke at the rally, said the interlocutors
have been asked by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to interact with
people to know the ground situation. "I promise cases of rights
violations will be investigated."