City coun­cil bans Kash­mir mar­tyr rally in poster row

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Elis Sand­ford Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

A BIRMINGHAM rally to com­mem­o­rate the death of a Kash­miri sep­a­ratist leader has been banned just days be­fore it was due to take place.

Sup­port­ers of the late Burhan Wani – shot dead by se­cu­rity forces a year ago – had been granted per­mis­sion for a me­mo­rial rally out­side Birmingham’s Coun­cil House this Satur­day, spark­ing a com­plaint by the In­dian au­thor­i­ties.

But, at the last minute, or­gan­is­ers have been told that the city coun­cil has pulled the plug on the event.

Wani, 22, was killed dur­ing an en­counter with In­dian se­cu­rity forces in the dis­puted Kash­mir re­gion on July 8, 2016. The 22-year-old was the com­man­der of the Hizbul Mu­jahideen group, which is des­ig­nated a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion by In­dia, the EU and the US.

His death in In­dian-con­trolled North­ern Kash­mir sparked vi­o­lent protests, leav­ing dozens more dead.

Wani was pop­u­lar among Kash­miris due to his ac­tiv­ity on so­cial me­dia, where he cam­paigned against In­dian rule in Kash­mir.

Wide­spread protests erupted after his death, caus­ing un­rest for nearly half a year, dur­ing which more than 90 peo­ple died and 15,000 civil­ians and 4,000 se­cu­rity per­son­nel were in­jured. Kash­mir was placed un­der 53 con­sec­u­tive days of cur­few.

Birmingham City Coun­cil ini­tially gave per­mis­sion for the me­mo­rial rally, named in Wani’s hon­our, to be held in Vic­to­ria Square on Satur­day.

Posters cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia ad­ver­tis­ing the event car­ried a pic­ture of the late com­man­der and said: “We will take back what is ours force­fully. We will not rest un­til Kash­mir is free from Kuf­fars and hoist the flag of Is­lamic Ummah.”

The coun­cil with­drew its back­ing and can­celled the gath­er­ing after con­cerns were raised about the posters, and the In­dian gov­ern­ment made an of­fi­cial ob­jec­tion.

A coun­cil spokesman said: “We took a book­ing for a peace­ful rally high­light­ing the hu­man rights abuse in Kash­mir. How­ever, we are now aware of con­cerns raised about the pro­mo­tional leaflet and, hav­ing as­sessed the ma­te­rial, have not given per­mis­sion for the use of Vic­to­ria Square.”

Re­ports in In­dia said that Deputy High Com­mis­sioner of In­dia to the UK, Di­nesh Pat­naik, lodged a for­mal com­plaint to the For­eign Of­fice, say­ing: “Al­low­ing anti-In­dia el­e­ments to flour­ish here in the name of democ­racy will not do.”

Or­gan­is­ers of the pro­posed rally were last night un­avail­able for com­ment.

> Burhan Wani was shot dead a year ago

> The con­tro­ver­sial poster

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