5th August 2021 is a significant day in the ‘Red for Kashmir’ campaign. Recently, the world witnessed something similar but in a different context: the very successful Black for Rohingya campaign. Based in the United Kingdom, Claire Bidwell of the ‘Red for Kashmir’ campaign, says that she had only become aware of the Kashmir issue with regards to the occupation and the rights of Kashmiri people to self-determination, just after the 5th of August in 2019. She became aware of people that could not contact their family because their communication had been cut off. This was after India had revoked article 370. Article 370 of the Indian constitution had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir, conferring the power to have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over internal administration. Bidwell became alarmed that she had never, in mainstream media, come across anything about Kashmir, adding that it had been clearly kept hidden.
Bidwell said, “when any communications are turned off, then they’re hiding, you know without a doubt, hiding human rights abuses.” She said that that was what had begun her campaigning, which led to many global connections through social media, as social media is new weapon being used in campaigns. And one of the things that have come – the other pronged attack for Kashmir with this Red for Kashmir, and the other, the background, the Kashmiri diaspora – when this happened the Kashmiris all turned their profiles red. She said, “And then we came along, with the Black for Rohingya campaign, and in one of the things that we highlighted as of coming towards the fifth of August, was, the similar concept, the similar idea. Black for the Rohingya had been really effective; perhaps we needed to regenerate something, and for Kashmir.” Bidwell said that’s how the ‘Red for Kashmir’ discussion emanated with other global activists that she had met on her own campaign journey.
Bidwell said that the coronavirus pandemic has, however, dampened some of the traction that the campaign had gained, when it first began in 2019. She said on the 5th of August 2019, India moved overnight, with no prior warning, nearly 800 000 troops in. She said that India cut off all communications in Kashmir, and removed men from their homes. Kashmiris faced curfews and were not allowed to leave their homes. Article 370 35A was a semi-autonomous right that Kashmiris had while they were waiting for the United Nations promise to the rights to decide for themselves whether they wanted to be independent, or be governed by Pakistan or India. She reminded that Kashmiris had been waiting 73 years for this. Bidwell said that India had acted illegally. She said it was against international rights and human rights to changing the demography of a place, and that it was is against the Geneva Convention. Further, the reports of human rights abuses, where there ae ‘half widows’ – women who don’t know where their husbands are. There are reports of mass graves and horrendous atrocities being committed. India had also managed to get Amnesty International, India, closed down under the guise of financial irregularities. She said what this translates to is that no envoy can enter Kashmir, so there is no one to witness the oppression of Kashmiris. It is hidden from the world.
Bidwell said that India is using antiquated laws where anybody that comes out on the street to protest, or to report events, is being imprisoned. The Kashmiri leadership has also been imprisoned, and with currently over 200 political leaders in prison, voices have really been silenced. There have been multiple shootings and deaths around the Line of Control between India and Pakistan as well.
Glasgow hopes to hold a car rally on the 5th of August for the ‘Red for Kashmir’ campaign. The motorcade will travel from Glasgow to the parliament in Edinburgh. Bidwell says that she hoped that people would join from all over the UK, adding that being in their cars was the safest way to not transmit COVID. Bidwell says that she hoped that visible events, like this, would take place globally, not just online events.
Red for Kashmir was based on Kashmiri people in the diaspora having put up red profiles, symbolising bloodshed and danger. Bidwell says that on the 5th of August they would like to see people turn their profiles red, take photographs of protests, upload them to social media, on every platform that they can with the hashtag ‘Red for Kashmir’. ‘Red for Kashmir’ can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Umm Muhammed Umar