India celebrates 75 years of Independence

by Sami Burgaz
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Kashmiris mark day with strike in Indian-administered Kashmir.

NEW DELHI, India/SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – India celebrated its 75th Independence Day on Sunday with traditional fervor and gaiety, while a strike was observed in Indian-administered Kashmir to mark the day.

Heritage buildings in the capital New Delhi, as well as the cities Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and other state capitals were decorated with colorful lights.

The main program was organized in New Delhi, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi unfurled the tricolor on the ramparts of the historical Red Fort amid a 21-gun salute.

Addressing the nation, Modi, in a veiled attack on Pakistan and China, said: “By conducting surgical strikes and airstrikes, we have given a message of the emergence of a new India to our enemies. It also conveys that India can take tough decisions.”

He also announced the formation of a National Hydrogen Mission as part of efforts to deal with climate change.

“We have to make India a hub of production and export of green hydrogen,” said Modi.

Speaking for the eighth time from the ramparts of Red Fort, the prime minister took note of his past accomplishments but also laid out his future vision.

India’s Olympic contingent, which participated in the recently concluded Tokyo Games, was also invited by the prime minister for Independence Day celebrations at the Red Fort.

India won seven medals at the Olympics.

Modi also lauded the efforts of doctors, nurses, vaccine manufacturers, and all those involved in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People can take pride that the world’s largest vaccination program is going on in the country,” said Modi.

Kashmiris greet day with strike

Meanwhile, a strike was observed in Indian-administered Kashmir, a region which has been site of 30 years of insurgency, along with shutdowns and protests.

While the local government, currently run directly from New Delhi, held functions at heavily guarded venues to celebrate the day, shops and businesses remained shut and very few private vehicles could be seen on the roads.

Pro-freedom leader Syed Ali Geelani, 91, who has spent the better part of the past decade under detention at his home, had called for a strike on the day through his authorized representative in Pakistan.

In a statement on Aug. 13, Geelani said that a “nation which deprives others of freedom loses every right to celebrate its freedom.”

On the orders of the government, school teachers and non-teaching staff sang India’s national anthem while hoisting the country’s flag. A massive banner was also hoisted atop a fort in the capital Srinagar, where a ritual march-past by police and paramilitary soldiers, as well as song and dance festivities, were organized. Similar functions were held in other districts of the region.

Unlike it has done in the past, the administration did not cut phone or internet services during the day.

Lt. Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha, who presided over the main function, said: “Terrorism was a curse for peace and development.” He said India’s neighboring country “has been making a malicious attempt to instigate the youth, but a befitting reply would be given to those who mislead the youngsters through the proxy war.”

Disputed region

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China. Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

In Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire took effect in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989.


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