Kashmir Solidarity Day was started by the Pakistani government in 1990, not as a day of celebration, but as a day of protest. The purpose was for Pakistani citizens to take time out and show support for their fellow Muslims in Kashmir who are living across the line of control (LOC) in Indian territory. As quoted by local news source GEO: “The day is a regular annular event being marked to support the indigenous freedom struggle of the people of occupied Kashmir, their right to plebiscite promised to them by the United Nations as well as to condemn Indian aggression on the held valley, its illegal occupation, its tyrannical rule and atrocities done against the innocent people.”
On this date, every year since the holiday’s founding, there is a national holiday. All shops, schools, and government offices are closed. Widely publicized media events, such as human hand chains from Islamabad to the capital city of Kashmir, seminars, and speeches, are beamed out of the country to show that Pakistanis stand with Kashmiris in Indian-held Kashmir.
While these media events of politically zealous Pakistanis are beamed all over the world, Kashmir Day seems to be just like any other holiday for the majority of the population. I’ve lived in Lahore for three years now and been through three Kashmir Days. Not once has anyone ever explained to me that the holiday was actually a day of protest. In schools, the children and teachers are quite happy to get a day off. Last year, the 5th fell on a Friday and everyone eagerly anticipated taking family trips on the three-day weekend.
This year on Kashmir Day, we were invited to join our friend’s family for an outing for a nearby village. With smiling faces, they announced that Kashmir Day was coming and we’d all have a holiday. There was no mention of protesting or of the “Indian aggression” in Kashmir. On Kashmir day itself, I saw no protests or banners, but I did lots of people relaxing and playing cricket. The roads in Lahore were empty until after 11am, as most working people enjoyed sleeping in late.
It was only when I came home and I wondered, “Why do we celebrate Kashmir Day when there’s not peace in Kashmir?” that I started searching for the answer on the web. Only through the internet and local television stations did I learn that the day was meant to be a day of protest! Maybe at its inception in 1990 it was, but almost 20 years later it seems like just another day off for most of the population.