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IU students protest India’s treatment of Kashmir, its citizens


Graduate student Anushka Sen speaks before the start of the march against India’s removal of Kashmir’s special status Sept. 4 on IU's Bloomington campus. The group made its way from the clocktower near Woodburn Hall to the Monroe County Courthouse. Sam House

A crowd with diverse races, religions and national origins marched from Woodburn clocktower to Monroe County Courthouse on Wednesday protesting India's repeal of Kashmir's regionally autonomous status.

According to the New York Times, India revoked Article 370 from its constitution Aug. 5. The 70-year-old clause granted the state of Kashmir and Jammu a special status, limiting India's political power in the region. 

Kashmir has been in a communication blackout since Aug. 5, according to the New York Times. Internet access and phone lines were disconnected by the government. This hurts groups such as doctors communicating with patients andshopkeepers who use the internet to order essential items for customers.

"Since Aug. 5 the situation has become a lot worse, it's become an open prison where people are confined to their homes and communication has been completely shut off," said Sidera Ahmad, IU student and first generation Kashmiri American. 

Ahmad said her mother hasn’t been able to call her mother, who lives in Kashmir, in four weeks. She said one of her relatives recently died because he went to the hospital seeking dialysis and no doctors or nurses were there to administer his medication. 

Around 25 people came to the march, led by the Muslim Student Association with help from graduate student Anushka Sen and others.

Sen, who is Indian, said the country is handling tension like it's a local issue, rather than international. She said Muslim people are the population most affected by India's decision. 

“Nationalists and the kind of rhetoric they’re always using makes the people secondary and the question of territory more important,” Sen said. “That’s a very sort of sinister mindset to fall into.”

According to the New York Times, Kashmir will be a primarily Muslim state controlled by India’s Hindu nationalist government, increasing religious tensions.

"It's this backward logic where you can first through unfair, unconstitutional moves can claim it as your own," Sen said. "And then once you claim it as your own, you can wipe away any criticism by saying 'this is part of my country'."

Bilal Mozaffar, public relations chair of the Muslim Student Association and IU junior, said he marched to raise awareness. Mozaffar spoke at the protest and said advocates should contact their local and state representatives and let them know they support Kashmir's independence.

"We hear a lot about things that are happening in our side of the world, but we don't hear a lot of things that are happening on the Eastern side of the world," Mozaffar said. "And the main issue is that I know there are so many Americans who care about this kind of thing so basically if they just knew what was happening, I think they would take action."

Sen said there is a lot of confusion in Muslim and Indian communities concerning Kashmir. She said this is an important time for Indian Americans to constructively look at their country's actions. 

"It's a way of being concerned as to what's being done in my name, in the name of my national identity," Sen said. "At the end of the day, I think it's important to look at a piece of land not just as a piece of land, but as a place where people live."

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