Manchester, UK – October 25, 2023 – The Right Worshipful Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Yasmine Dar, presided over a distinguished reception at the Lord Mayor Civic and Ceremonial Office, Manchester Town Hall, in a resplendent event to commemorate Kashmir National Day. The celebration, organised by the esteemed Kashmir Development Foundation (KDF), drew attendance from illustrious members of the Manchester City Council and the venerable British Kashmiri Community.
In her address, Councillor Yasmine Dar, the Right Worshipful Lord Mayor, articulated, “Kashmir National Day, observed annually on October 24th, assumes a profound resonance within the tapestry of the Kashmiri community, transcending borders to resonate both across the United Kingdom and internationally. This commemoration magnifies their storied history, rich culture, and their pivotal role in fortifying the local economy, preserving our cultural heritage, and nurturing civic life, not just in Manchester but in towns and cities throughout the U.K.” Coinciding with the Kashmir National Day Celebration, the Lord Mayor officially launched the KDF and NHS joint winter vaccine literacy campaign “Be Wise, immunise” to encourage the members of diverse communities to get their flu and COVID-19 vaccines and to reduce the risk of serious illness in colder months.
Sardar Aftab Khan, the Executive Director of the Kashmir Development Foundation, expounded upon the organization’s mission. “The KDF ardently champions community integration, inclusion, and the empowerment of the Kashmiri community. Each year, our foundation spearheads the nationwide ‘Jammu and Kashmir History Week’ observed from the 20th to the 27th of October, culminating in the august celebration of Kashmir National Day on the 24th of October.”
The inception of the initiative to commemorate “Kashmir National Day” in the UK was initiated by the KDF. Since 2012, this remarkable tradition has seen local authorities in Rochdale, Bradford, and Manchester hoisting the Kashmir flag or displaying it at their respective Town Halls. The fervour of these ceremonies has radiated to encompass Oldham, Bolton, Rotherham, Leeds, Luton, Oxford, and High Wycombe, where flag-raising and ceremonial displays captivate participants each year.
KDF extends a heartfelt invitation to all County, City, District, Borough, and local Town Councils to actively participate in these dignified civic ceremonies by hoisting or displaying the “Azad Jammu and Kashmir flag” in unison with the Union Flag at City/Town Halls on October 24th each year. This solemn observance encapsulates the heart of “Kashmir National Day” within the broader context of the Kashmir History Week.
This noble endeavour impeccably aligns with the esteemed guidance provided by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities on the subject of Flying Flags (2021). The guidance commends flags as emblems of joy, pride, and vehicles for the expression of local identities, fostering community cohesion and marking civic pride. The symbolic act of unfurling the Kashmir flag on this auspicious day embodies civic pride, kindles community cohesion, and elevates the celebration of local and national identities.
Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, the astute executive member for Finance and Resources at the Manchester City Council, expressed a warm reception for KDF’s community development initiatives. He unequivocally stated, ” Manchester City Council standing unwaveringly committed to inclusivity and advancing equality, as well as nurturing the rich tapestry of cultural diversity within our community.”
Councillor Shaukat Ali articulated, “The Manchester City Council accords official recognition to the Kashmiri community within its ethnic data monitoring systems, affirming and venerating their enduring heritage and history. This proactive stance fosters a profound sense of belonging, unity, and harmonious coexistence.”
KDF emphasizes that the observance of Kashmir National Day is an embodiment of civic pride and cultural celebration. The overarching objective is to foster unity and promote intercultural understanding among all communities, thereby ushering in an era of inclusive and harmonious cohabitation.
Councillor Naeem ul Hassan echoed the sentiment, shedding light on the legacy of the British Kashmiri community, whose history in the United Kingdom stretches over a period spanning 177 years. This vibrant and politically engaged community, characterized by its diverse array of ethnic, regional, and religious backgrounds, stands as a stalwart pillar of the civic, economic, and cultural heritage of towns and cities across the U.K.
The data compiled by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) acknowledges the Kashmiri ethnic group as one among the designated tick-box response categories for ethnic monitoring data, predicated on the Census 2021 data. It is heartening to note that sixteen local authorities in England have officially endorsed the recognition of the Kashmiri national and ethnic identity within their ethnic monitoring systems, a testament to their unwavering dedication to fostering community harmony and promoting equality.
The Lord Mayor’s reception to celebrate Kashmir National Day epitomizes the spirit of unity and respect that unites the Lord Mayor’s Office, the indefatigable Kashmir Development Foundation, and the venerable British Kashmiri Community. This extraordinary event exemplifies the cherished values of civic pride, the beauty of cultural diversity, and the enduring bonds that intertwine our communities.