The Friday clashes in Sirinagar between protestors and the Indian troops on the event of Kashmir day prove that despite the efforts of successive Indian governments, the issue of Kashmiri self determination cannot be swept under the rug. Until there is a lasting solution to the problem, the status quo will continue to erupt in violence. Protests in Pakistan were peaceful in contrast, but their tone and tenor was anything but. Keeping the Kashmir issue in the nation’s and the world’s narrative is important, and Kashmir Day serves as a great tool. Yet lately, especially in Pakistan, the line is being led by people whose involvement is harming the cause rather than helping it.
Under the banner of the Kashmir Yekjehti Unity, the banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and Ansarul Ummah held a rally in Islamabad where they propagated Jihad against India to reclaim Kashmir. They did not hold flags of their organisations and didn’t carry the name – that was all it took for them to circumvent the government’s ban on their activities. Hafiz Saaed, who has been declared a terrorist by international organisations also took to the stage and proclaimed his old message freely. While these groups can draw crowds and keep Kashmir a recurrent issue at little cost to the government, they inevitably tarnish the effort in their extreme, and often violent, approach. India gets to avoid the issue by asking for action against militants as a condition to talks on Kashmir, and other nations stereotype the Kashmir struggle for links to extremists. This is a major part of the reason Kashmir is so low on international priority lists. Kashmir is being wrongfully equated with militant Islam of the kind seen in the Middle East. Furthermore the collateral damage of preaching such an extreme doctrine should be evident; Pakistan is struggling to fight militant Islam, which is rooted in such extreme doctrines.
Since the government didn’t even make an effort to stop these banned organizations from holding rallies, it can be assumed that it sees no harm in them. However, after the recent rallies, it may have a different view. The religious organisations turned their guns on the Prime Minister, accusing him of “ignoring the Kashmir issue”. It matters little that they contradicted themselves moments later by slamming the Prime Minister for fostering a friendly relationship with India and Narendra Modi specifically; the point is that they have started to undermine the government. The just cause of Kashmir must be taken up the government, not these defamed groups.