Black days are in fashion The Excelsior 01 Nov 2021 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Black days are in fashion The Excelsior 01 Nov 2021

Within the subcontinent India and Pakistan marking Black days against each other has begun gaining steam in recent years.

India marks 22nd October, the day Pak raiders crossed the Neelum River and attacked Kashmir as Black day. Pakistan marks India’s independence day and Kashmir accession day, 27th Oct, as Black days. In India, 27th Oct is Infantry day, marking the day Indian troops (1 SIKH) landed in Kashmir and pushed Pakistan raiders back. Pakistan utilizes both these days to project its support to Kashmir and highlight its disputed status. In 2019, Pakistan announced both, 14th and 15th August as Black days, as Article 370 had just been repealed, taking Pakistan by surprise.

While India’s actions on its nominated Black day, 22nd Oct, are localised and social media dominated, Pakistan attempts to make a grand show of their earmarked Black days hoping to draw Kashmir into global attention. It also involves other anti-India groups including those demanding Khalistan into its paid organized protests.

Pakistan did receive support in the valley on these occasions as long as the Hurriyat held sway, dwindling with passage of time. Indian security forces were compelled to be on their toes to prevent raising of Pak flags and other mischief. An analysis of Pak announced Black day of 15th Aug of 2016 and 2021 would indicate the difference in outlook to Pakistan’s calls for protests in the valley.

An excerpt from an article in The Hindustan Times of 15 Aug 2016, the year Burhan Wani was gunned down, sums up the scenario. It stated, ‘The Valley is draped in a blanket of security. Thousands of soldiers are the only ones out on the streets, trying to keep tentative peace. Nervous men in uniform stand with guns cocked, in wait, perhaps, of defiant pelters who might dart out of their homes. But movement, too, is restricted. Rolls of concertina wire have been laid out to block squares, alleys and by lanes. The sight of a civilian on the streets is enough to unnerve the security forces.’ Despite all security forces attempts, Pakistan flags were raised in multiple places as a mark of defiance. In those days, violence in the valley, to support trapped Pak terrorists was a daily affair.

          In 2021, all schools across the Union Territory celebrated Independence day. Lal Chowk was lit up in national colours. Independence Day celebrations were held in every district, with flag hoisting being done by elected DDC representatives or government officials. Vehicle rallies with Indian flags visibly displayed took place in parts of the state. There were no incidents of violence, forced hartals or the flying of Pakistan flags as earlier.  

The breaking of the pro-Pak Hurriyat, blocking of hawala funds as also conduct of DDC elections did change the atmosphere. Though, as is customary across the country, there was extra vigil maintained by enhanced deployment of security forces, to prevent an untoward incident by terrorists, thereby marring the celebrations. There is no doubt that there has been a change in mindset of the populace.

This year, 14th August, Pakistan’s independence day, which traditionally is day of concern in the valley, was just another day. However, Pak newspapers carried fake reports, released by their army information department, stating that Kashmiris celebrated Pak independence day with enthusiasm. The Nation, a media outlet in Pakistan stated, ‘flag hoisting ceremonies in Srinagar and other areas were also conducted to express love for Pakistan. Moreover pro-Pakistani and anti-India slogans were also chanted.’ Another media outlet, The News, stated that this year (2021) the valley observed 10 days of Hartal from 05 to 15 Aug based on a call given by the All Party Hurriyat Conference. These were attempts to hide reality from its populace. Pakistan is aware that it is losing support in the valley.

          Pakistan has always hyped its marked Black days by releasing statements from all its political leaders as also attempting to organize marches and protests both within and outside. In Islamabad there is a ritual protest outside the Indian High Commission. Its preferred locations abroad are London and Washington, outside the Indian embassy/ consulate, as it can draw support from pro-Khalistan elements. This year, both Indian Independence Day and Accession of J and K day, were Pak only events, with the valley maintaining normalcy and muted protests abroad. 

The highlight of the event this year was the Pakistan foreign office releasing songs praising Pakistan’s support to Kashmir in conjunction with its army’s publicity department. Struck down by financial woes, the Pak government allocated only USD 1000 to its embassies to highlight fake Indian atrocities in Kashmir as also sponsor anti-India protests.

          Indian marking 22nd Oct as Black day is intended to remind Kashmiri’s of atrocities committed by Pakistan in the region since the launch of Operation Gulmarg in 1947. Almost the entire population of Kashmir was born post the horrible incidents of 1947, hence the need to remind them. While India marks Black day to highlight 1947, the messaging also includes Pakistan’s actions in Operation Gibraltar in 1965 and continued support to terrorism. This year, posters were displayed across Kashmir highlighting Pakistan’s atrocities.

There were also protests in Dacca on 22nd Oct this year, in support to the Indian call, as Bangladesh had similarly suffered at the hands of Pak forces in 1971 under Operation Searchlight. Surprisingly, this was not covered extensively in Indian media. As in earlier years, protests against Pakistan this year too were held globally led by its own suppressed communities. The Sindhi’s, Baloch and Pashtun population, mainly abroad, observe Pak independence day as Black day.

          Black days have become the norm on both sides to convey their governments message to the masses. In India, it is not a major event. In Pakistan it involves all sections of society including its polity, despite having achieved nothing over the years. However, stopping these events or lowering its levels by any Pakistan government would invite criticism from the opposition. These are therefore likely to continue, without any worthwhile achievement. Globally, these days are irrelevant.