ISLAMABAD - Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to always support the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday paid tribute to Kashmiris on the Kashmir Martyrs Day for their valiant fight and defiance against a Hindutva supremacist regime.

In a series of tweets on the Yaum-e-Shuhada-e-Kashmir (Kashmir Martyrs Day), the prime minister hoped the liberation of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir is not far.

He said, on Yaum-e-Shuhada-e-Kashmir they salute Kashmiris for their continued struggle against the illegal and barbaric Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Prime Minister referred to the 22 Kashmiris who were martyred 89 years ago during a protest against the autocratic rule of a Hindu Maharaja in the Muslim majority state as the “forefathers of today’s Kashmiri resistance”.

“Their descendants have, generation after generation, laid down their lives for freedom and today they continue to valiantly fight & defy a Hindutva supremacist regime bent on demographic engineering to wipe out the Kashmiri people and their identity,” Imran Khan tweeted.

He said Pakistan had always stood with Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination and would continue to stand with them in their “just struggle” till the Indian-occupied valley is free from illegal occupation, adding that the day was “not far”.

The Kashmiri Martyrs’ Day, the day to commemorate the people killed in a revolt against the Hindu king in 1931, had been declared a national day soon after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and was observed by all sections cutting across political and ideological affiliations.

The function was held every year officially in the downtown locality of Srinagar in the premises of the martyrs’ graveyard, with a guard of honour, and the chief minister and other political leaders laying wreaths on graves.

But after the August 5 decision last year, when India revoked the special status of the region, it also removed July 13 from among the days of remembrance.

It was on July 13, 1931, when tens of hundreds of Kashmiris had gathered outside the premises of Central Jail in Srinagar where Abdul Qadeer, a resident of British India, was being tried on the charge of sedition, for inciting Kashmiris against the Dogra ruler at a gathering in Khanqah-i-Muallah on June 21, the same year.

At the time of midday prayer, one of the crowd members stood to make a call to prayer and was shot dead by the police. He was succeeded by another member who met the same fate. In all, 22 men rose to complete the call to prayer and all were shot dead.

Interestingly, until last year the Kashmir Martyrs Day was also observed in occupied Kashmir. However, in December 2019, four months after revoking the special status of occupied Kashmir, the BJP government removed this day from the territory’s official holiday list.

The occupied valley has seen at least 229 killings during more than 100 military operations since January, according to a recently released report by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

From January 1 to June 30, the region witnessed the extrajudicial executions of at least 32 civilians and the killing of 54 armed forces personnel, the report stated.

It also saw 55 internet shutdowns and the destruction of 48 structures.

The report said three children and two women were also killed, while at least “107 cordon and search operations and cordon and destroy operations were conducted in the region”.

The Indian government had on August 5, 2019 repealed Article 370 of its constitution, stripping occupied Kashmir of its special status. It also divided up occupied Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories; one Jammu and Kashmir, and the other the Buddhist-dominated high altitude region of Ladakh. The bifurcation of the territory came into effect on October 31 last year.

A strict lockdown and communications blackout has been in place in occupied Kashmir since August last year, with reports suggesting limited mobile data services and internet were temporarily restored in the region in January.