More than 2,000 demonstrate in Toronto to show support for Kashmir

More than 2,000 people gathered on the edges of Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto on Sunday to draw attention to the plight of Kashmir.

Toronto police set up barriers to separate the protest from an India Day celebration being held at the same time inside the square. Police maintained a presence between the two groups but no clashes and no arrests were reported.

"There was a police presence," Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said on Sunday. "We were there to keep the peace and to ensure everything ran smoothly."

The protesters, meanwhile, said they attended the demonstration on the sides of the square because they want to bring attention to the plight of the Kashmir region.

Demonstrators told CBC Toronto that they have not been able to contact their relatives in Kashmir by phone and there is concern that their loved ones may be running out of food and medicine.

The protesters, many of whom brought placards, marched around the square to show their opposition to a security lockdown in the region.

Kelda Yuen/CBC

Restrictions are continuing in Kashmir despite the Indian government insisting that it is gradually restoring phone lines and easing the security lockdown that has been in place for nearly two weeks.

The security crackdown and a news blackout were implemented following an August 5th decision by India's Hindu nationalist government to downgrade the Muslim-majority region's autonomy. Authorities started easing restrictions on Saturday.

Sanna Wani, a University of Toronto student whose family is from Kashmir, says they were on one of their yearly visits when the recent communication blackout was implemented.

"It was a collective sense of anxiety," Wani told CBC Toronto.

"It was literally like an overnight thing, like Saturday night we went to sleep thinking maybe nothing will happen, then on Sunday night the blackout began. The internet was cut, the phone line was cut; my dad was so anxious."

Wani said they returned to Canada on Wednesday.

According to the Press Trust of India news agency, authorities re-imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar after violence was reported on Saturday.

The New Delhi government's decision on Kashmir's status has touched off anger in the region and raised tensions with Pakistan.

Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India, but both claim the region in its entirety. The nuclear-armed archrivals have fought two wars over the territory.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has demanded that United Nations observers be deployed to the troubled region.

Kelda Yuen/CBC