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JKLF’s march towards Srinagar, An eye witness account

09 October 2019 | Qaiser Khan
On 5th of October 2019, the JKLF-Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front started its freedom march c towards Srinagar, the capital of Indian held Jammu and Kashmir from Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir. It began as festivity and to cheer the large crowds gathered on domail bridge, a group of young men climbed on the passenger buses and started calling ‘akhri gadi akhri gadi, Srinagar Srinagar’ meaning this is the last bus leaving for Srinagar so people better hurry up.

Later in the evening, the festive aura of the march turned gloomy when the leadership asked people to take it slow and rest at Garhi Dupatta College ground some 40 km short of the Line of Control. Soon, some people started spreading rumors that it’s a ‘fixed match’ and the JKLF’s leadership has done an underhand deal with Pakistan to stop the march.

Despite these rumors and a cold Kashmiri winter night below the barren skies, the morning of 6th October witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of marchers and very soon, the crowd swelled to somewhere between twenty to twenty-two thousand as the locals joined the freedom bandwagon.

From there on, the crowds kept swelling and when the march reached Chinari, a small town some 15 km away from the LoC, a large number of women, children and elderly came out and started showering rose petals on the procession. From nowhere, a large group of youth emerged with batons chanting slogans of ‘tera nagar mera nagar, Srinagar Srinagar’ and ‘abh ki baar, aar ya paar’.

To be honest, I saw that the JKLF’s leadership was also taken aback by such an astounding turn-out and they decided to take a break and discuss the future course of action. It was here for the first time that small contingents of security personnel started to appear asking people whether they were serious about crossing the Line of Control.

The administration had already communicated it to the organizers that they won’t be allowed to cross Jaskol, a small village on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway some 6 km away from the LoC. This is the point which falls directly into the firing range and at night, LoC is quite visible from this area called Jaskol.

The barbed fence at the Line of Control in Chakothi is an interesting sight. Apparently it’s stunning, it looks like a galaxy of stars that light up the whole area but for the people that it separates, this is a line that cuts through the heart and soul of Jammu and Kashmir. I was thinking that our Kashmir is so wrapped in beauty that even the symbols of occupation aren’t ugly here.

As of now, the marchers are sitting on the road with fires lit up around them and the occasion has become festive again. I asked the octogenarian Abdul Hameed Butt who’s also the Central Vice President of JKLF about his journey so far, he told me that he’s on dialysis and goes back Muzaffarabad every night to get the treatment. This is the level of commitment and sacrifice of the marchers.

It is amazing how after 28 years, the Kashmiri people have still not forgotten about the fateful march of 1992 that resulted in the killing of five people at the LoC on the same spot where a sit-in is going out right now.

The Vice-Chairman of JKLF, Saleem Haroon who used to be a militant commander with the same outfit had the most difficult job of handling this procession. He told me that this march is essentially a non-violent endeavor but the insensitive behavior of authorities is making life difficult for us. He pointed towards the containers placed on the road and the policemen guarding them and said;

‘’It is as if some people want us to quarrel with these policemen. I have communicated it loud and clear to our cadres that from now on, no Kashmiri will fight another Kashmiri for someone else’s sake, I have decided that the only bullet I’m ready to face is an Indian one and we will avert a collision with our own’’.

After he said this, a group of policemen came to him and asked for food which was provided instantly. Interestingly, this gesture wasn’t only appreciated by the charged crowd particularly youth but also by the policemen themselves who said that Kashmiris are fighting an existential battle right now and we will not take action against our people.

Such is the mood at Jaskol right now, men are sleeping on the road and women are resting in the ambulances. It is quite unprecedented that a significant number of young women are also a part of this march their distinctive presence has ensured a very pluralistic environment in this march.

When the last details came, two rounds of negotiations between the ministers of Azad Jammu Kashmir’s government and Mr. Rafique Dar who’s the spokesperson of JKLF have failed to produce any result. The people are determined to cross the Line of Control and help their besieged brethren across the LoC.

It is pertinent upon the government of Pakistan to intervene at the highest level and talk to the protesters. The demand that UN must intervene and force India to lift the curfew is a genuine demand that every concerned global citizen must support. It’s only a matter of time before things get out of everyone’s control. Islamabad must realize that Kashmiris en masse have decided to make it the last battle.
The write is a Research Fellow at the Center for Peace, Development and Reforms, CPDR. He can be reached at:

Author: Qaiser Khan

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