The Indian government has held a special ceremony to announce that it is in control of the disputed area of Kashmir.
It came as millions of Kashmiris languished under curfew, confined to their homes for the 11th consecutive day.
Officials from New Delhi gathered inside a heavily fortified cricket ground in the state capital Srinagar, protected by hundreds of troops, helicopters and drones. They were there to celebrate Indian Independence Day – by hoisting the Indian flag over Kashmir.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his hard right government hope that repression will prevent protests on the streets. They want their media blackout to stop the world learning that they have turned Kashmir into an open prison.
But those who joined a several hundred-strong protest in London on Thursday were having none of it.
Syed Raza from south London has not been able to contact his family in Kashmir for almost two weeks and is desperately worried about them. But he’s just as worried about the future of the whole region.
“They want to turn our land into another Palestine,” he told Socialist Worker. “But we will never allow that to happen. We will fight them all the way.”
Uzma from Harrow in north west London agreed. “I think what is happening in Kashmir is an echo of what is happening to Muslims elsewhere,” she said.
“Look at the Rohingya Muslims expelled from Myanmar. Look at the growing Islamophobia across Europe – it’s all part of the same thing. We’ve got right wing politicians like Trump and Modi, and their friends in the media, deliberately creating divisions.
“But I think ordinary people of different religions can live together. Hindus and Muslims have done so for thousands of years in India, so why not now?
“India should leave and let the people of Kashmir decide their own future. We must decide whether we want to be part of Pakistan, or whether we should be an independent state.”
Shafia, an activist in the PCS union in east London, was on the protest to demand self-determination.
“I’m sick of my homeland being treated like a bone being fought over by two dogs – India and Pakistan,” she said. “I’m not a bone to be fought over.
“Kashmiri people are caught in the middle of this fight. Many people will say they think Kashmir is part of Pakistan but my view is different. I say, this is my house, so I make the rules.”
Shafia was also scathing about the role of the British Empire in creating the decades-long crisis over Kashmir.
“Britain created this whole problem in the first place,” she said. “The British Empire played divide and rule between Hindus and Muslims, so the responsibility for Kashmir lies here, in Britain.
“But now we don’t hear a peep from the British government about Kashmir – not a word.
“My question to Modi is – why was it right for India to seek independence from Britain but wrong for Kashmir to seek independence from India?”
It’s a question that those hoisting the Indian tricolour over Srinagar have no answer to.