Student organizations rally in support of Kashmir after Indian occupation

Zaid Syed/Courtesy

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A coalition of campus organizations gathered on Sproul Plaza on Wednesday to raise awareness of current government relations between India and Kashmir and to demand the divestment from India by colleges throughout North America.

The conflict between the two regions escalated in August when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party revoked Article 370 from the Indian Constitution, which allowed Jammu and Kashmir to create its own constitution and the freedom to make its own laws. Since then, the region has faced increased military presence and a communications blackout.

“The removal of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution comes after decades of state repression, extrajudicial killings, murders and kidnappings of the Kashmiri people,” according to a statement released in August by the UC Berkeley Sikh Student Association. “(We) believe we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with the groups and peoples striving for their right to self-determination.”

More than 100 people participated in the “Rally for Kashmir,” according to an organizer for the rally, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation against their family. The organizer added that the rally sought to raise questions regarding student strategies for prevention and re-assessing the relationship between campus and “enablers” of the Kashmirian occupation.

Campus Asian American and Asian Diaspora studies lecturer Huma Dar was one of the guest speakers that attended the rally. At the rally, Dar said the Kashmirian viewpoint during occupation is “often overlooked,” according to the organizer.

ASUC Senator Sumrit Grewal — who ran for election with a platform of unifying the Middle Eastern, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian communities on campus — said the rally “went well” in an email.

“We, of course, support efforts by students to speak out about issues that concern them and to raise awareness,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email.

Gilmore pointed to resources offered by the South Asian, Southwest Asian and North African, or SSWANA, Initiative, part of the campus Division of Equity and Inclusion. SSWANA provides communities with access to resources on campus to promote advocacy for social justice through education and empowerment.

Students who want to help should first “educate” themselves about the issue because understanding the root causes through personal research helps bring awareness and prevent misinformation, according to the organizer.

The organizer added that students should also be more “socially conscious” when thinking about the United States’ involvement and place pressure on institutions that “allow” these issues to emerge.

“(Kashmir) is not an empty piece of land that is full of resources for foreign countries to fight over — this type of treatment must be condemned because it infringes on human rights,” the organizer said. “Berkeley has historically been a hotbed for movements and we want to see our message spread across North America and put pressure on institutions that condone the occupation.”

Clara Rodas is the lead race and diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ClaraRodas10.