Indian politician Omar Abdullah’s campus speaking event on Thursday, despite being largely peaceful, ended with a slight commotion amid controversy.
The event, titled “The Path Forward in Kashmir,” was organized by UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies as part of its “Topics on Contemporary India” series. The event was co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Institute for South Asia Studies.
Abdullah is one of the most prominent politicians in the northern Indian state known as Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Institute of International Studies’ website. According to the website, he was invited to share his perspective on possible solutions in the region, which has historically been the site of contention and violence among Indian and Pakistani leaders.
The incident began about 10 minutes before the event’s end, when a few audience members became “agitated” after the moderators announced that the event would end soon, according to a statement from Jason Wittenberg, interim director of the Institute of International Studies. Several people became “upset” that they had not yet had a chance to address Abdullah, and they “voiced their displeasure” when the event ended, according to Wittenberg.
“We are proud of the Berkeley community members who attended the event and respectfully voiced their opinions,” Wittenberg said in the statement.
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Earlier this month, an organization called the Kashmir Project started a petition on Change.org to “contest” the event and “protest against obfuscating the ground reality of Occupied Kashmir.” The petition had 558 signatures as of press time.
The petition claims that Abdullah provides a “civilian façade” to what is rather “a military occupation” — it claims that while he was chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, hundreds of Kashmiri civilians lost their lives to both police and paramilitary violence.
“The entire event is lopsided as the narrative of resistance against Indian Occupation of Kashmir has not been given its due place and recognition by the organisers,” the petition states.