After the Centre revoked Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the neighbouring Punjab has witnessed several protests condemning the move and demanding that all rights of Kashmiris be restored.
Thirteen organisations, led by Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), had held protest rallies in 13 Punjab districts on September 10 and had announced another massive rally in Mohali on September 15. The administration denied them permission citing law and order.
The organizations, however, have decided to that they will go ahead with the protest and have charted out plans to hoodwink the officials.
Talking to the Sunday Express, Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary, Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), said, “We will move out from our houses Sunday morning and stage dharnas wherever we are able to reach. We have heard that police has been deployed on the main roads leading to Chandigarh from various cities”.
Kokri Kalan said accused the government of trying to suppress “the voice being raised in support of Kashmiris”.
Apart from BKU (Ugrahan) other outfits supporting the cause are Pendu Khet Mazdoor Union, Krantikari Union, Punjab Students Union, Textile Mazdoor Union, Karkhana Mazdoor Union, and Kirti Kisan Union among others. Most of the unions are supported by factory and farm labour apart from farmers. On September 10, the unions had also formed National Struggle Committee for Kashmir.
Kokri Kalan said if other states are quiet on the Kashmir issue “it does not mean that we should also remain mum”. “Kashmiris have been suffering for last 70 years. Government had said that will take public opinion before taking any decision on Article 370, but they removed it without taking the residents of that state into confidence. On top of that they imposed so many restrictions that it has become virtually impossible for them to get their voice heard. So we are supporting them by becoming their voice,” he added.
The outfits had decided to hold a massive rally at Dussehra ground in Mohali on September 15 and later hand over a memorandum addressed to President of India via Governor of Punjab.
Lachman Singh Sewewala, president, Pendu Mazdoor Union, said, “On one hand, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh hosted lunch for Kashmiri students on Eid and even Rahul Gandhi went to Kashmir to meet the locals, while on the other hand, the same Congress government has denied permission for our rally. This shows that government is under pressure of BJP. They even arrested the tent owner who was setting up the tent at the venue in Mohali. He was later released”.
Though Punjab has a sizable number of Kashmiris, including hundreds of students, none of them are part of the protests.
Shingaara Singh Maan, president, BKU (Ugrahan’s) Bathinda unit, said, “They fear coming out in open but are relieved as others are speaking on their behalf”.
Meanwhile, several doctors from across the country have requested Union Home Minister Amit Shah to facilitate their visit to Kashmir so that they could assess the healthcare situation there. In a letter sent Friday, the doctors under the aegis of Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (ADEH) said that there are conflicting reports about the healthcare situation in the valley. “Whereas the government’s statements are that healthcare is normal, but several media and independent reports are to the contrary. It is therefore important to assess the exact situation by a team of doctors by visiting different parts of the valley,” said Dr Arun Mitra, Ludhiana based surgeon.
The doctors’ body, however, has nothing to do with the above mentioned organizations.