March through downtown St. John's shows support for Kashmir during political turmoil

Although far away from the political turmoil in Kashmir, some people in St. John's are expressing their concern for Kashmiri people.

Saturday afternoon, residents made signs and marched in solidarity with those living in the Indian-controlled state. 

"It's an attempt to be a part of a global movement that is standing up [against] the human rights violations that are taking place in Kashmir right now," said Nabila Qureshi, who organized the rally.

Meg Roberts/CBC

The Indian government has ended Kashmir's special status as a semi-autonomous region and cut off all communication between the state the the outside world for a period earlier this month. 

Qureshi lost contact with her grandmother as a result. She did not hear from her for 13 days, but has since connected. 

"We want to be that voice and take advantage of our privilege and our gift to be in a democratic country such as Canada that promotes freedom of speech to be able to give the voice back to them," she said. 

Other issues Qureshi wants to shine light on is the curfew that has been imposed by the Indian government, as well as an increase in military armed forces now occupying Kashmir. 

However, not everyone thinks the same. Some members of the Indian community watched the rally from the outskirts. 

Meg Roberts/CBC

Sandeep Jagota has been living in St. John's for the past 10 years. He says the government is right in fully integrating the state because he believes it will improve the overall living conditions in Kashmir. 

"The government of India is trying to protect the citizens of Kashmir from the extremist and terrorist groups," said Jagota, speaking on behalf of about 20 people who showed up to counter the rally.

"The government is trying to do everything in consultation with other countries with how they can protect their citizens."

Meg Roberts/CBC

He said with the abolition of article 370, which allowed Kashmir to have its own constitution, the state will be better off adopting India's laws and rules.

"Now the children of Kashmir will have the right to education like all the children of India," he said.

As for the communication blackout, Jagota says it was a temporary measure. 

"It's very easy to spread rumours."