Dr. Shahida Khalique

The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) rights movement is a turning point in our history and marked a major shift in our collective struggle for our rights. While the tangible benefits of affordable electricity and subsidized flour are certainly welcome, the true victory of this movement lies in its ability to unite the people of Kashmir like never before.

For decades, our region has been stricken by division based on region, clans and political division based on different ideologies. But the AJK rights movement has shown us that if we put aside our differences and come together, we can achieve all our rights. The movement brought together people from all walks of life – students, professionals, activists, and ordinary citizens under a common banner of demanding our rights and dignity. We have seen rallies and protests where people from different political and social backgrounds stand side by side, united in the pursuit of justice and equality. The AJK rights movement also highlighted the power of grassroots and mass movements.

It showed us that if we organize and come together, we can make those in power not only to hear our demands but to take action too. The success of this movement depends not only on the concessions we won, but also on the unity and cohesion we created. We have proven that together we are unstoppable. And this unity is our greatest strength. The story of ‘An Old Man and His Sons,’ traditionally used to teach the moral lesson of ‘Unity is strength’ to children, should now be replaced with a story depicting the collective unity of Kashmiris in their unwavering pursuit of rights during the years 2023-2024. Of course, there is still much work to be done.

Our fight for rights is far from over and we must continue to push for meaningful change. But for now, let us be proud that we came together as one nation to pursue a better future for Kashmir. The 13th of May holds profound significance in the context of the AJK Rights movement serving as a symbolic unity day for Kashmiris. To commemorate the unity and determination shown by the people of Kashmir during this movement, May 13 should be celebrated as ‘Kashmiris’ Unity Day’ every year. It serves as a reminder of what can be achieved when individuals come together to pursue a common goal. Let’s build on this momentum and continue striving for a better future where our rights and dignity are respected and protected. We should avoid regionalism, casteism and political division based on different ideologies which may cause serious harm to our unity. Let’s not allow anyone to divide us for their own benefit. Let’s take a moment to identify those who sow seeds of division among us. They’re the ones who tear apart our communities just to climb the ladder of power and authority. They’re the ones who turn a blind eye to our struggles for rights and fairness, instead, suppressing the talents of capable individuals and disregarding merit.

They prioritize their own near and dear ones over deserving and talented common youth in jobs, power corridors and everywhere. They also grab development schemes just to financial stabilize and uplift contractors of their respective parties but not the masses. Let’s make a collective resolve to discourage such kind of politics and build a society where everyone has an equal chance to succeed based on their abilities, not on their connections. Let’s unite behind a mandate that prioritizes justice, equality, and meritocracy. Now it’s the time to stand shoulder to shoulder in the pursuit of justice, freedom and dignity because in our unity we find strength and in that strength we find hope for a better future for all Kashmiris. Together, we can create a Kashmir where all its citizens have access to quality education, health facilities, and economic opportunity. A Kashmir where our culture and identity are celebrated and respected, a Kashmir where our voices are heard and our rights are protected.

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