CHANDIGARH: The government was unable to stop the protests in Punjab in support of the Kashmiris despite disallowing a rally by 11 organisations of farmers, students, farm labourers and cultural activists at Mohali. The rally had been organized to protest abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A by the central government and the clampdown on Kashmir.

Punjab was turned into a fortress since 3 am with the police and other forces setting up pickets on every route heading to Mohali. They stopped all the vehicles carrying the protestors from moving towards Mohali. This led to the protestors resorting to a dharna at the very place where they were stopped whether it was a highway, a village road or the railway station.

According to Punjab Lok Sabhyacharak Manch leader Amolakh, “The government’s attempt at silencing the masses has failed as major rallies were held at 45 places and resulted in blocking of all the main roads leading to a complete shutdown in Punjab. We were expecting at least 20,000 people in Mohali.”

“The decentralization of the protest proved a boon as people across Punjab got an opportunity to show solidarity with the Kashmiris. Reports have been pouring in from all corners of Punjab about the success of the agitation which also shows that the masses of this brave state do not approve of what the centre has done in Kashmir,” said Namita who was leading at protest of Naujawan Bharat Sabha at Gurudwara Amb Sahib in Mohali that is adjacent to the proposed spot for the rally.

Slogans in support of Kashmiris echoed across the hinterland of Punjab with some of the most successful protests taking place in places like Mahal Kalan, Sangrur, Barnala, Muktsra, Mansa, Tarn Taran and Bathinda.

“Asi khade Kashmirian Naal, 370 karo bahal (We stand in complete solidarity with Kashmiris. Article 370 must be revoked”, Kashmiri lokan da Kashmir (Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris) and “Captain Sarkar Murdabad” were some of the slogans that rent the air across the state.

The protestors were particularly scathing on Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for withdrawing permission for the rally. The organizers said that the permission had been denied on frivolous grounds whereas due procedure had been followed to inform the appropriate authorities. “We had informed in writing to wherever we were asked to. We shifted the venue to Mohali when were were told that Section 144 is in force across the union territory of Chandigarh,” Namita said.

Amolakh was visibly angry, ”What kind of a democracy are we turning into where the people will have to ‘seek’ permission to air dissent and protest?”

Meanwhile sources told this reporter that the government went all out to stop the protests as it was apprehensive that the proposed rally would be used by Pakistan for adverse propaganda.

When asked about the alleged intelligence on the situation going out of hand Amolakh said, “Those protesting are common citizens. They are farmers, students and labourers who are standing up for demcoratic and human rights for fellow citizens. This should be supported.”

Aman, a student Panjab University said, “The attempts at muzzling protest have been going on for sometime. We were not allowed to hold a discussion on abrogation on Article 370 on August 13. However, we managed to hold the event a few days later.”

A group of eminent persons from the fields of literature, culture and social activism later interacted with reporters at Mohali. Social thinker Dr Navsharan Kaur who is also the daughter of famous playwright Gurcharan Singh pointed out, “This is the first time that the central government has used a four pronged strategy in Kashmir. It has not only used force, but also the constitution, the judiciary and punitive measures against the people. Our message is clear. We do not stand for abrogation of democratic and

Punjab is the only state witnessing continuous protests about the situation in Kashmir, with federalism being at the core of the demonstrations.