The iconic Nathan Philip Square of Toronto was packed by tens of thousands of Canadians in order to raise their voices in support of the oppressed people of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK).
The protest demonstration was attended by the people from all walks of life belonging to all faiths and was organized by Friends of Kashmir Canada.
They included Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and people of other faiths.
Old and young, children as well as individuals in wheelchairs were there to provide support to their Kashmiri brothers and sisters.
The Kashmir Media Service reported that the protesters were holding banners which read slogans like, “Modi is the New Hitler”, “12 Million Kashmiris under Lockdown”, “Who said Hitler is Dead, Meet Modi, the PM of India” and “Stop Genocide in Kashmir”.
At its peak, the people had to climb to the overhead walkway so that they can watch the rally below because the crowd was so large that it could not be accommodated in the square.
The rally was held to coincide with the Independence Day celebrations of India paid for by the Indian Consulate in Toronto where an India Food Festival was also held.
Taking notice of the size of the rally in support of the people of Kashmir, a low profile was maintained by the Indian consulate staff and a number of events were cancelled including a formal opening ceremony, settling for music blaring from their loudspeakers.
The reporters informed that, several dozen vendors peddling greasy Indian food were also subdued, who preferred to adopt a low profile aware that the participants of the rally were highly charged.
Speakers at the rally were not just from among the Kashmiri or Pakistani communities but the rally also included such well-known Canadian society figures such as former President Ontario Federation of Labor, Sid Ryan, Journalist Phil Taylor of the famous Taylor Report, Karen Rodman of Just Peace Advocates, Peace Activist Ken Stone and Human Rights Lawyer, Stephen Ellis.
Framing it in the context of international law and based on Security Council resolutions, the Canadian government was called upon by the speakers repeatedly in order to take a more forthright stand on the long-festering problem of Kashmir.
The fact that with federal elections due in October, the question of Kashmir should be made a part of the election campaign was also highlighted by several speakers.
The participants of the Rally were told that when individuals come knocking at your door and seek your vote; ask them about their stand on Kashmir.
The Convener of the Friends of Kashmir Canada and one of the principal organizers of the rally, Zafar Bangash said that “If they don’t support the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, tell them they will not have your vote”.
The participants of the rally were reminded by Ken Stone that it was a retired Canadian general, Andrew MacNaughton who was instrumental in formulating the earlier Security Council resolutions.
Ken Stone added that “Canada, therefore, has a moral and legal responsibility to fulfil its obligations in implementing the resolutions that it drafted.
”Sid Ryan, the former Labor leader and now an accomplished author, called upon people to unite for justice and peace causes whether these relate to Kashmir or Palestine.
The Lawyer of Human Rights Stephen Ellis added that the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi should be investigated for war crimes. This sentiment was echoed by another lawyer, Jatinder Singh, who is with the group, Sikhs for Justice.
A number of young Kashmiri students among them including Khaoula Siddiqi, Salma Khawaja, Shaheen Siddiqui, Mueen Hakak and Ayesha Malik (not her real name as her parents are still in Srinagar but she managed to get out of there by the help of the Canadian High Commission staff in Delhi) also spoke narrating passionate accounts of the suffering of the people of Kashmir.
There were also several speakers from the community of Sikh who were there to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir.
The organizers of rally vowed that the struggle for the rights of the Kashmiris will continue until they achieve their legitimate aspirations in order to hold a referendum as contained in a number of Security Council resolutions of the United Nations.