WASHINGTON     -    A large number of Kashmiris and their sympathisers gathered outside the In­dian Embassy in Washington and held a protest demonstration against the continued curfew and communica­tion blackout imposed by India in oc­cupied Kashmir.

The protesters said that for 12 days, their calls and texts, social media messages and prayers had been met with silence. Relatives of Kashmir res­idents, who have been locked away under an unprecedented crackdown by the Indian government, wonder if anyone they know has been blinded by pellet guns, imprisoned by Indian forces or assaulted.

They wonder when children will be allowed to return to school, when the phones will be turned back on, when the Internet will be restored. They have not gotten answers.

The demonstrators called upon the United Nations and the Trump Ad­ministration to intervene and put pressure on India to grant the Kash­miris their inalienable right to self-de­termination. “Kashmir has become the biggest jail on earth,” said a pro­tester, Suleman Qureshi. “We are real­ly blessed to be here, in this country, where we have a voice. That is why now we must be Kashmir’s voice.”

“People think this is just more tug of war between Pakistan and India, but the people who are suffering the most are the Kashmiris,” said Maliha Jamil, who attended the demonstration with her husband and four daughters.

“My daughters grew up here, and they didn’t know anything about Kashmir until they started to see the news this week, and they were devas­tated by what they saw,” Jamil said.

“I felt we needed to be here and lend our voices because the Kashmiri people have none.” “Kashmiris’ voic­es have been locked down, but I am their voice, I am their body, that’s why I am here,” said Saima Maqbool Shah, a Maryland resident whose family is from Kashmir. “I have nightmares when I see those pictures of peo­ple blinded by the pellet guns. I can’t sleep at night wondering what is hap­pening over there.”

Several protesters called India’s prime minister a fascist and a zealot, chanting “shame, shame, Modi!” and “From Kashmir to Palestine, occu­pation is a crime.” For more than 10 days, residents of occupied Kashmir have not been able to make calls or connect to the Internet. Public meet­ings of more than four people have been banned, and schools have been closed. Hundreds have been detained as Indian forces patrol the streets. The decision by Indian government to re­voke Kashmir’s special status has led to widespread uprising and protests.

Meanwhile, in occupied Kashmir, Joint Hurriyat Forum in coordination with civil society and the associations of law­yers, journalists, traders, transporters and employees have appealed the Kash­miri nation, the people of the Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Kargil to come out on streets and raise their voice for their in­alienable right to self-determination.

In a statement issued in Srinagar, the forum urged the people to defy curfew and other restrictions and protest against the Indian nefarious design to change the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its bifur­cation.