Demonstrations in front of the High Commission of India

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Among the thousands of people gathered in front of the High Commission of India in London on Thursday, a woman stood up with tears in her eyes as she joined the chants: "What do we want? Freedom".

Part of the city was paralyzed by the influx of anti-Indian government protesters who stormed the road, protesting against the country's decision to place part of Kashmir under sequestration.

The police had to separate them from a separate group that had gathered to celebrate Independence Day of India.

But for the protesters, who were passing black bands that they had tied to their arms and carried photographs of Kashmir, it was a "black day".

The protest took place while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his decision to deprive Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status would give it wide autonomy from the rest of India, would allow the region to regain its "past glory".

But what priority is the problem of British South Asians?


Razaq Raj, of Leeds Beckett University, was at the protest in central London

Rice Ali, 34, traveled for about three hours from Peterborough to the protest. He calls "disgusting" what happens in Kashmir, the birthplace of his grandparents.

"It's another version of what Hitler did," he says.

However, the tensions do not affect his daily social life nor his relations with British Asians of Indian origin. "We are Muslims and our religion teaches us to show peace," he says.

Razaq Raj, a Leeds lecturer whose parents are from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, says the political crisis is not divisive in his daily life – but he firmly believes he does not buy it of Indian products.

"We are all Asian, our heritage is Asian," he said. "The Indians are as good as anyone for me.It's not the Indian people, it's the Indian government."

"They have other concerns"

But far from the protests, South Asian charity activists tell BBC News that fighting social injustices unites communities, regardless of religion or ethnicity, and suggests that younger generations are more likely to 39 be divided by the tensions between India and Pakistan.

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Neelam Heera says that the women she works with have other priorities

Neelam Heera, 30, from Huddersfield, is of Indian Sikh origin. She stated that the ethnicity of her family was never mentioned except on social networks "where people find it easy to argue".

She founded Cysters, a charity that fights misconceptions about reproductive health and works extensively with women from diverse communities in Southeast Asia.

"These health conditions and medical conditions do not discriminate, so why should we?" she asks.

She says that tensions between Pakistan and India have never been raised at online meetings or communities.

"For these women, there are much more important things to think about – they live in chronic pain, so dealing with Kashmir and the side where you stand will not be something that will happen [their minds]. It's not their priority, they have other concerns, "she adds.

& # 39; Really inclusive & # 39;

Like Heera, Khakan Qureshi, an LGBT activist from Birmingham, says that common goals unite people of all faiths and nationalities.

Mr. Qureshi, 49, also works with people from a wide variety of backgrounds at BirminghamAsianLGBT, an organization run by volunteers for South Asian LGBT in the UK.

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Khakan Qureshi

"Everyone tries to be really inclusive to each other, that's what binds us to each other.If I'm in touch with someone, I do not really consider their faith or their religion, that's their personality, "he says.

But he fears that this is not always the case for younger generations.

"Now, people are trying to be much more specific in terms of identity, in terms of identity politics." he says.

"Myself and all my peers, we try to support the common points, in the sense that we seek to build bridges, friendships, that we identify ourselves as Pakistani, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Indian.

"I think the younger generation is interested in identity and wants to be much more separate – in some cases, not always."

& # 39; More divided & # 39;

Pragna Patel founded Southall Sisters, a lay organization of black women and minority women fighting gender-based violence. She says that she has developed a philosophy that aims to unite people against inequality.

"But outside our center, of course, the currents are swimming against us," she says.

"People are more and more divided, it is more difficult to forge solidarity among South Asians, let alone between all minority groups.This is because religion has become too politicized as 39; identity. "

She says that young people are more likely to "think of themselves as opposed to others" because they have no memory of the score – in which up to a million people have died and millions of others were displaced when India under British rule became the two new nations of India and Pakistan in 1947 – and grew up in an increasingly polarized political context .

What is happening in Kashmir?

Kashmir was plunged into an unprecedented closure this month following the revocation of Article 370, the constitutional provision that gave the State of Jammu and Kashmir a special derogation allowing it to legislate independently of foreign affairs, defense and communications.

Telecommunications were cut off and local leaders arrested as tens of thousands of soldiers were deployed to patrol the streets.

The UN said the restrictions are extremely worrying and "will exacerbate the human rights situation".

Last week, the BBC saw police open fire and use tear gas to disperse thousands of people who took to the streets to protest. The Indian government denied that the demonstration took place.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by India and Pakistan, but they each control only part of it.

  • Why is Kashmir controversial?
  • Kashmir: a timeline

There is a long-standing separatist insurgency on the Indian side, which has resulted in thousands of deaths in three decades. India accuses Pakistan of supporting insurgents, but its neighbor denies it, saying it provides only moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris who want self-determination.

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Legend of the mediaYoung Kashmiris as a result of the decision of India: "We were pushed back to the medieval era"

Mr. Modi defended his highly controversial decision to remove the special status accorded to Kashmir, calling it a "new era" for the part of the region administered by the Indians, while a large number of Indians were celebrating this move.

  • Point of view: Why the Modi movement in Kashmir is widely supported in India
  • Point of view: Has India pushed Kashmir to a point of no return?