SRINAGAR - Separated for years from their beloved ones, hundreds of Kashmiris marched on Sunday, June 10, to demand withdrawal of Indian and Pakistani troops from the disputed Himalayan region.
"Let me go, Ashraf Jan, a Kashmiri citizen living in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) at the bank of Neelum river.
I just want to see my parents and after that if I die, I will be in peace.
Like thousands of Kashmiris, Jan was forced to leave her mother and father to come to Muzaffarabad with her aunt in 1947.
Many other Kashmiris migrated to Muzaffarabad in 1990 to escape violence that sparked following the independence of India.
Overwhelmed with emotion, the 70-year-old Jan had to be stopped by relatives from jumping in the furious river to try to reach her ageing parents on the Indian side.
The emotional demonstration was attended by about 600 tearful Kashmiri men and women who gathered at the banks of gushing Neelum River.
It is one of the rare occasions in which the authorities allowed such events on the river.
Indian police and military did not allow Kashmiris on the other side to come near the river bank and they were left to wave from a distance.
Kashmir is divided into two parts and ruled by India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars since the 1947 independence over the region.
Pakistan and the UN back the right of the Kashmir people for self-determination, an option opposed by New Delhi.
Kashmiri Muslims urged both India and Pakistan to leave Kashmir and divert their military spending to help poor people in both countries.
"India and Pakistan are wasting money on arms when millions of people have to sleep without any meal every night," Arif Shahid, president of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Conference.
They should withdraw troops from Kashmir and liberate us so that they are able to work for the welfare of their citizens.
In the past years, the Himalayan region has been rocked by unabated demonstrations against the Indian rule.
More than 60,000 people have been killed since Kashmiris took up arms against the Indian rule in 1989.New Delhi has consistently rejected any foreign mediation to solve the Kashmir conflict, leaving Kashmiris empty-handed.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net