California, November 14, 2019 (PPI-OT):Three Kashmiri academics and a civil rights activist discussed the prevailing grim situation of occupied Kashmir during a talk at Encina Commons at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California (US). The panel, hosted by the Stanford South Asian Society, was moderated by Kashmiri student, Muskan Shafat, 21. The creation of the panel was motivated by India’s 5th August decision of revoking special status of occupied Kashmir, blocking communications and deploying thousands of troops in the territory.
The members of the panel called India’s actions a “siege” and a continuation of a colonial occupation that had occurred since 1947. The panel mainly focused on the current crisis in Kashmir, the human rights violations committed by the Indian government and military and Kashmiris’ aspirations for freedom.
According to Hafsa Kanjwal, a historian at Lafayette College, Kashmiris believe themselves to be under colonial rule, and the latest action by India has created fears that it would lead to settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing. The panellists condemned the use of rape as a weapon of war, assaults and murders committed predominantly by the Indian military and lack of legal recourse for the Kashmiri victims.
Indian protestors were present both inside and outside the hall during event. The panel was interrupted repeatedly by several members of the audience. Commenting on the protestors, activist and panellist Ammad Wajahat Rafiqi, asked, “Why is that when Kashmiri voices speak, people show up not to listen, but to actually fight back? Why are Kashmiri voices so dangerous?”
Huma Dar, whose research centers on the representation of Muslims and Islam in Indian cinema and literature, pointed out that George Washington and Nelson Mandela were also, at some points in history, called terrorists. This was in response to the protestors characterizing Kashmiris fighting for freedom as terrorists.
Shafat said that she was unsurprised by the controversy as she was raised in Kashmir and had family members she had been unable to contact since the crackdown. She said her goal for the event was to highlight Kashmiris’ plight. “For over 100 days, Kashmiris have seen their voices crippled,” Shafat said.
The panel ended with calls for settlement of the Kashmir dispute through talks among Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris. “I think that the only way we can think about this region, the way forward, is demilitarize, decolonize the area,” said Ather Zia, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado Boulder.
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