A SERIES of rallies have been held across Bradford to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Kashmir.

Protesters gathered at roundabouts in the city demanding the end to what they see as Indian aggression in the Muslim-majority region.

The rallies, which followed all social distancing guidelines, took place on roundabouts at Toller Lane, Thornbury, Barkerend, Wakefield Road, Manchester Road, Manningham Lane, ex-Morrisons Westgate, Thornton Road and Great Horton Road.

The Bradford-based Kashmir Overseas Solidarity Council held the peaceful protests today after India revoked the special autonomous status granted to the disputed region of Kashmir.

Raja Mahaz Ahmed, a Kashmiri who lives in Girlington, attended a protest at Prince's Way in Bradford with his seven-year-old son.

A number of cars beeped their horns as they passed the peaceful protests.

He has called for people to unite in solidarity with the people of Kashmir. He added peaceful protests will take place at a host of locations across Bradford each month.

He said: "The people of Kasmir have been fighting for their rights for 73 years now.

"People have talked about the lockdown we are in in Britain. This is not a lockdown compared to what is happening in Kashmir.

"They have had had every single thing banned, no food, medicines. No education. People are hungry.

"We Kashmiris are in need.

"This is our request to everyone across the world; please wake up.

People have shown unity over Black Lives Matter. We want it too. Kashmir Lives Matter too

"We will be doing these peaceful protests each month. We will be doing them in different locations."

Why were prople protesting in Bradford?

Kashmir - which has a majority Muslim population - is a region in South Asia which is claimed by both Pakistan and India. The two nations have fought three wars over it - in 1947, 1965 and 1999.

Despite both nations claiming the territory, there has also been a push for Kashmiri independence, with many expressing the Kashmiri people's right to autonomy and self-determination.

Britain colonised and ruled much of the Indian subcontinent from the 17th to the 20th century, with the British Empire having control of the countries we now know today as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

But, after leaving the region in 1947, the British Empire divided it into separate parts. This is known as the Partition of India, which created the two separate states of Pakistan and India.

Partition resulted in the displacement of more than 10 million people and saw violent and bloody clashes, with the death toll estimated by some to be between 200,000 and two million.

After partition, Kashmir's position - and who it 'belonged' to - was unclear and has since led to decades of conflict.

Today, the majority of Kashmir is under Indian control, while a smaller part of the region belongs to Pakistan, with some parts also governed by China.

On 5 August last year, the Indian Government revoked Article 370 - a long-standing agreement which gave Kashmir semi-autonomous status - leading to civil unrest and claims of human rights abuses, killings, sexual assaults, mass detentions, media blackouts, the cutting off of telephone networks and the banning of public gatherings.

The situation has been described as a lockdown - internet access, communication with the outside world and media coverage are limited in Kashmir, while there have also been curfews in place and restrictions on the number of people who can congregate together at any one time - which existed long before the onset of coronavirus.

Kashmir has been widely reported as being the most militarised zone in the world, with hundreds of thousands of Indian troops estimated as being deployed in the region.

Bradford has a particularly strong connection with Kashmir, owing to its large Mirpuri population.

Pakistan-administered Kashmir is called Azad Kashmir (literally translating, from Urdu, as 'Free Kashmir') and the majority of Bradford's British-Pakistani population - which accounted for just over 20 per cent of the district's population in the 2011 census - can trace their roots to this area, specifically to Azad Kashmir's Mirpur district.

Although the lockdown and the conflict in Kashmir is taking place across the Line of Control and in the Indian-administered section of the state, the issue of Kashmir is still a very emotive one for Bradford's British-Pakistani community.