NEW YORK - Kashmiris and Sikhs on Saturday staged a huge demonstration in front of the UN building as Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressed the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.

Both groups called on the international community to raise its voice against human rights abuses by Indian security forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir and Punjab.

The Kashmiris, who had gathered in big numbers, called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take urgent steps to implement the world body’s resolutions that provide for the exercise of right of self-determination by the Kashmiri people. They also called for an end to the atrocities let loose by Indian occupation forces in Kashmir.

The Sikhs, some of whom were wearing yellow turbans, backed the Kashmiris struggle against Indian occupation.

They said that India practiced sham democracy that gave no rights to the minorities and carried out a repressive policy.

Raising slogans of: “India: Honour UN Resolutions”, “Freedom for all, Freedom for Kashmir”, Indian Forces: Out of Kashmir”, “No Justice, No Peace”as the demonstrators urged the world body to fulfil its promise of self-determination to the people of Kashmir.

Syed Ali Geelani, Chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, in his message, said that the United Nations, despite being aware about the disappointing, dismal and shameful track record of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, had failed to impress upon India to reign in its trigger-happy soldiers and stop killings in the State.

Custodial killing, enforced disappearances and rape as a weapon of war are the hallmarks of Indian occupational forces in Kashmir, he said.

Muhammad Yasin Malik, Chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, in his message, said that people without the discrimination of age and gender have been locked up in jails and police stations and all this is being done in the name of so-called democracy and raising the bogey of law and order.

Kashmiris on daily basis are being humiliated, destroyed, incarcerated, tortured, blinded, and demonized, he said.

He appealed to the UN Secretary-General that the gruesome status quo in Kashmir is both legally and morally unacceptable and militarily and economically frightening. “There is no time for further complacency.”

Barrister Sultan Mehmood Choudhry, former Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir warned against the unresolved dispute between two nuclear-armed nations post to internal peace and security.

“Since its nationhood, secured on August 15, 1947, Kashmir has been despoiled, defiled, and devastated by Indian troops and denied its fundamental right of self?determination. The nuclear danger in South Asia will never recede until Kashmiris receive the justice and political liberty promised by a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions providing for a free and fair self?determination vote.”

Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary-General of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum said that Swaraj, the Indian Minister, told the world body that there is terrorism in Kashmir. During the latest phase of the freedom struggle, he said, virtually all the citizens of Srinagar and adjacent towns - men, women and children - came out hundreds of times on the streets to lodge a non-violent protest against the continuance of Indian occupation.

At times, more than a million Kashmiris participated in these demonstrations, he said.

Ishtiyaq Hameed, a representative of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference said: “All our basic rights and civil liberties have been snatched by Indian forces. There is no freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Peaceful protests are responded to by brute force. Bullets and pellets are indiscriminately used against the peaceful protesters. Humiliation, harassment, torture at the hands of the Indian forces, is an everyday feature of life of a Kashmiri. The Indian forces are present in every nook and corner, thus turning Jammu & Kashmir into a virtual prison. Kashmir once called a paradise on Earth has become a place of misery, sorrow, death and destruction.”

Sardar Sawar Khan, former Adviser to the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir stressed Kashmir was a powder keg, and the issue could not be left to bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan, a format that has proven sterile for more than 70 years.

He added: “What is needed is outside mediation and an equal partnership negotiating role for the people for Kashmir represented by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. That approach cut the Gordian knot in Northern Ireland and it would seem equally promising if applied in Kashmir.”

Others Kashmiri who spoke included: Sardar Taj Khan, Sardar Haleem Khan, Sardar Imtiaz Garalvi, Sardar Zilfiqar Khan, Sardar Zubair Khan, Raja Liaqat Liyani, Yasin Chohan, Sardar Zaheer, Irfan Tasaduq Khan, Saleem Butt and others.

Akali Dal leader Sardar Sarabit Singh also addressed the gathering to loud cheers. He denounced the killings in Kashmir and urged the international community to uphold the promises made to the Kashmiri people.

He also demanded the right of self-determination for the Sikhs.

In a memorandum submitted to the UN chief, Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry and Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, gave background to the Kashmir dispute, and said, “We trust that your personal involvement in this matter will bring its influence to bear on both India and Pakistan to initiate a peace with which the United Nations as well as the genuine leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir will be associated so as to ensure that settlement arrived at will be based on the principles of justice.”