The people of Indian Held Kashmir have been suffering atrocities for decades, sometimes things escalate and sometimes they die down but never have the Kashmiris been able to live a day in peace. Pakistan has always supported its Kashmiri brethren and has always tried to highlight their stance at international forums.

Tensions have been high in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) since the killing of Burhan Wani by Indian security forces in July 2016. Wani’s funeral was followed by angry protests that were unprecedented in intensity and range. Indian government reprisals have left nearly 100 civilians dead and thousands more injured.

Wani was part of a new generation of young, educated Kashmiri youth using social media to spread their demands for independence from Indian rule. Wani was extremely active on social media, and did not hide his identity behind a mask. He created awareness among Kashmiri youth about their rights using social media in a most effective manner, many of his posts and videos used to go viral. In his last video he had warned local police of “consequences” if they continued to resist the “movement”. India considered Wani a terrorist, but for many locals he represented the spirit and political aspirations of a new Kashmiri generation.

There was something about Wani that captured the imagination of the Kashmiri populace, particularly its youth, and has driven the struggle to freedom to unprecedented heights. Youth are at forefront of the Kashmiri struggle for independence and they are using the new tools such as technology to get their message across. India needs to realise that it can no longer erase the voices of Kashmiris, they will be heard no matter what the cost. For most of the young generation in IHK Wani’s death and the subsequent unrest in the valley spurred them to struggle more than before for azadi.

Identity, nationalism, and shifting modes of resistance relate now not only to the physical invasion of private spaces or the rising numbers of the highly educated and unemployed, but also, to virtual surveillance and the closure of channels of even civil discourse for young people in IHK. In the wake of Wani’s killing, India prolonged curfews over not just physical spaces but also over vital channels of communication (local newspapers, television channels, Facebook, mobile messaging services) saying that they can be used to spread rumours, hate messages, even violence. The argument, in other words, is that surveillance and banning social media is important to maintain peace in IHK. This is a ridiculous notion and further restricts the basic human rights that are afforded to all. For those forced to live on the edge in their own homeland, access to these digital spaces has come to be most imperative. This relates to hopes of winning by peaceful means.

Chief Minister of Indian Held Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti has recently said that the situation that erupted in IHK after the killing of Burhan Wani was “well organised” and “kids were used as shields. It is not easy to handle (unrest) when a crowd attacks police stations and there are taranas playing all over from the mosques,” she said. Her remarks, that agitation that erupted after death of Wani was a well planned conspiracy, can only be termed naïve. The outpouring of grief and demonstrations were impromptu and heartfelt and were certainly not planned as she suggested. In fact it was the Indian government actions in which about hundred people were killed and thousands injured which brought about further unrest. The use of excessive force against innocent civilians protesting peacefully is deplorable and a blatant violation of the right to life, right to freedom of expression and opinion, right to peaceful protest, right to peaceful assembly and other fundamental rights. And on top of that when people took to the streets to protest the killing of Wani oppressive measures were used to deter them.

Government of Pakistan has time and again reaffirmed Pakistan’s firm commitment to a just and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the protection of their fundamental rights. Pakistan will continue playing its constructive role towards peaceful solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, and for that purpose it will continue to try to engage with India. The people of Kashmir deserve that we fight for them; their future generations and ours too, deserve that we fight for their rights and aspirations.