On the call by the Awami Action Committee (AAC) of Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmiris observed complete shutdown and protest in POJK on October 5. Protests spanned across Poonch, Muzaffarabad, and Mirpur, with the participation of thousands of individuals. The call for the protest aimed to pressurize the occupying POJK government to address key demands including free electricity. Simultaneously the protest was also in response to the crackdown on activists by the administration.
It’s worth noting that for two consecutive months, 78% of Kashmiris did not pay their electricity bills as part of a boycott, which is expected to continue until their demands are met. The protesters have outlined a list of demands, which include the provision of free electricity, the reinstatement of subsidies, and the withdrawal of unnecessary government perks enjoyed by the ruling elite.
Power Shortages in Kashmir
Out of the 3,000 megawatts of electricity that is generated in POJK, the region itself requires only 400 megawatts, making it a net surplus producer of electricity. Despite that, the region is facing extreme power cuts and high prices. And that is happening because the region and its resources are being exploited by Pakistan for its own benefit, depriving Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) of their rights and justified claims. The protesters are, hence, demanding free electricity and the elimination of power shortages and that the benefits of the surplus electricity to be passed on to the Kashmiri population.
Various labor and socialist organizations, both from Pakistan and around the world, have expressed their solidarity with the Kashmiri people’s struggle for their rights. Notable organizations joining the cause include the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign, Labour Party Pakistan, Workers’ International Network, and others.
This recent wave of protests in Kashmir, involving the working class, the underprivileged, and the youth, is emblematic of a broader struggle against colonial rule, class oppression, and national subjugation in the entire region. The success of this movement is seen as vital for the marginalized and working-class Kashmiris, who continue to rally for their rights and demand socio-economic reforms in the region.