IN an act of ruthless repression, the Indian security forces indiscriminately fired at one of the biggest protest rallies in Held Kashmir's history, with participants variously computed between 100,000 and 250,000, and shot down prominent Hurriyet leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz and several others near Uri on Monday. About 200 other protesters were injured and a similar number taken into custody. As the news of the death of Sheikh Aziz spread, hordes of incensed people came out into the streets all over the Valley, breaking curfew and other restrictions and shouting angry slogans, "We will spill blood for blood." The troops responded with bullets and teargas shells; yet the crowds chanted: "Pakistan Zindabad" and "we want freedom". Sheikh Abdul Aziz and Shabbir Shah, who was among the injured, were leading the protest; the possibility of target shooting cannot be ruled out, though. This was the third leader since 1990 that laid down his life struggling for the cause of freedom, which the Indians had promised to grant to the people of Kashmir, a promise they have shamelessly backed out of since. The earlier victims were Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq and Abdul Ghani Lone. The 'march to Muzaffarabad', in short across the LoC into Pakistan, was staged in protest at the economic blockade imposed by Hindu fanatical organisations in Jammu, stopping the movement of trucks to and from the Valley. In Sopore, the security forces deflated more than 200 trucks carrying fruit and arrested about 100 fruit growers. The blockade has put an end to all trade with the outside world, including that of fruit with which the Valley virtually overflows. That the authorities have not bothered to break it, but let all economic activity in the Valley stifle, suggests their callous attitude towards the people for their 'sin' of agitating for the right to self-determination. Almost every business, religious and social organisation, including the Fruit Growers Association, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the People's Democratic Party, made the call for the march. Pakistan Foreign Shah Mehmood Qureshi has made a tame call for an immediate end to violence, eschewing condemnation that the barbarous recourse to force demanded. Most APHC leaders, including Syed Ali Gilani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, are under house arrest and have sharply criticised the death of Sheikh Aziz and the treatment meted out to protesters. In the words of Mirwaiz, "Kashmiris are dispensable" in the eyes of "the fabled Indian democracy", they "can be starved, killed and crushed at will". The plight of the people of Held Kashmir is crying out for justice and the right to freedom in an age in which democracy is the order of the day. Could one expect the champions of democratic rights in the world to come forward and listen to their tale of woe?