Beyond Kashmir solidarity

On Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5, Pakistan Army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) released a song on social media in support of Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.  Titled ‘Sangbaaz (stone-pelters)’, the  song expresses solidarity with the youth of Kashmir and its lyrics backed by the visuals from the  last year’s  unrest in Kashmir call on India to leave the state. 

“You Can Blind Our Eyes But Cannot Steal Our Dreams,” goes  one of the lines of the song. The video has gone viral in Kashmir. The February 5 is officially observed as Kashmir Solidarity Day in Pakistan since 1990 when the armed separatist movement first began in Kashmir. However,  in recent months, the social media outreaches to Kashmir have grown manifold from  both the official Pakistani channels and the civil society groups in the country.   

Earlier, during the unrest  a website called ‘Never Forget Pakistan’ had posted some hard-hitting photoshopped images of the Indian celebrities on Facebook , with their faces disfigured by the pellet guns. Some of the celebrities whose faces were shown to have been pockmarked by the pellets included Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Mark Zuckerberg, Virat Kohli, Hrithik Roshan, Kajol, Saif Ali Khan, Alia Bhatt, Aishwarya Rai, and even politicians like Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The images went viral across the subcontinent. 

Now to add to this social media campaign, an upcoming Pakistani film Azaadi tells the story of a man who sacrifices it all for the freedom of Kashmir and how his vision is carried forward by young people he inspires. Its director Imran Malik says that a film has never been attempted on such a big canvas in Pakistan before.

The Kashmir Solidarity Day was also marked by the protests and the solidarity marches across Pakistan. The day began with a moment of silence, bringing traffic across Pakistan to a halt for a minute as a mark of solidarity with Kashmiris. However, this year, Pakistan didn’t encourage a big rally by the Kashmir-centric militant groups.  Jamat-u-Dawa’s new face, Tehrik-e-Azadi Jammu Kashmir, however, did stage many rallies, conferences and marches across the country. In Lahore, the organization held a massive gathering at Nasir Bagh on the main Mall Road of the city. Thousands of supporters of the movement attended the rally. With its chief Hafiz Saeed in custody, the rally was led by Abdul Rehman Makki, senior member of JuD and the second in command to Saeed.

However. while the rallies in support of Kashmir have over the years become an inalienable part of the separatist movement in Kashmir, their utility has been little more than ritualistic in nature. The truth is that Kashmir is caught in a limbo. Seventy years after partition, and  most recently after the carnage of 2016, there is little hope of any progress in the settlement of the lingering conflict over the state. This calls for an objective rethink of the strategies being adopted. The strategies that lead to a measurable progress towards a solution and a review of the ones being pursued for their own sake.    

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