Hundreds of Kashmiris belonging to a pro-independence group are set to march toward the Line of Control (LoC) – the de facto border that divides disputed Kashmir valley between Pakistan and India.
The rally billed as “Freedom March” will protest New Delhi’s move to scrap the special status of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) in August.
It is being organised by the Azad Kashmir chapter of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a group led by the incarcerated pro-independence leader Yasin Malik.
The marchers who have gathered in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir plan to cross the LoC to Srinagar, the capital of IOK, an event unlikely to happen.
Rafiq Dar, a spokesman for the JKLF, said “many thousands“ had already gathered in Muzaffarabad from across Azad Kashmir and Pakistan “to march toward Srinagar”.
“We have all legal rights to cross over the LoC because we do not recognise the division of Kashmiris. Secondly, the United Nations resolutions have also accepted the free exit and entrance to both parts of Kashmir,“ Dar told Anadolu Agency over the phone.
“Therefore, we appeal to the government and the army to allow us to cross over [LoC] and face the Indian troops,” he added.
Dar said the marchers will remain peaceful and not indulge in any kind of violence.
A government official requesting not to be named told Anadolu Agency that over 500 JKLF supporters, including 50 women, have so far gathered in Muzaffarabad. Hundreds more are expected to join the marchers on Saturday.
Raja Iftikhar, a local journalist, speaking to Anadolu Agency, put the numbers of protesters at 3,000 to 4,000.
Already frosty relations between the two South Asian nuclear rivals, have touched a new low after India scrapped special provisions of IOK, which allowed it semi-autonomy.
The state has been under a complete lockdown since August 5.