Kashmir conflict advances onto campus
Amid conflict in the Indian region of Kashmir, Student Government (SG) senators, sponsors and fellow students drafted a resolution calling for action after the government of India revoked Kashmir’s special status as an autonomous state.
The resolution, however, was opposed by students from India, claiming that it only represented one side of the conflict.
According to Relations Committee Chair Alliyah Edwards, the purpose of senate resolutions are for legislators to highlight or condemn actions that may be affecting their constituents at USF and beyond. Through the drafting of resolutions, students can make a call for action on behalf of SG and the student body.
The resolution was written by Sen. Noor Kantar alongside nine sponsors, with the intent to “condemn the actions and atrocities committed by the government of India against the valley of Kashmir,” said Khubaib Farooq, one of the sponsors. It was then presented to the SG Senate Relations Committee on Sept. 19, where it was later sent for mediation after students claimed bias on its content and language used.
Kantar was not available for comment by the time of publication Wednesday night.
Kashmir is located in the Himalayan region, with borders in Pakistan, China and India. The region has been the focus of conflict between Pakistan and India since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The conflict evolved Aug. 5, when the Indian government decided to revoke article 370 and 35-A from India’s constitution. The article gave Kashmir its autonomy, including its own constitution, a separate flag and the freedom to make laws.
With the removal of article 370, the Indian government imposed restrictions in their region of Kashmir that shut down schools and colleges, suspended telephone and internet service and ordered house arrest of regional political leaders as well as civil servants, according to the BBC.
Sen. Suyog’ Thengale said he opposes the resolution because it covers “one side of the conflict.”
“I’m really happy, seeing someone raising a voice and helping the student body to be more aware of what’s happening internationally, but I do oppose the resolution since it’s very one-sided and needs more clarity and support from both sides of the group,” Thengale said.
The Oracle did not have access to the draft of the resolution as it is still under discussion.
Farooq said that the idea to write the resolution came after a “common understanding” regarding the human rights violations to the people of Kashmir and the importance to spread the word about the conflict.
“At this point, we are not here to lead people other ways as this issue is not about politics,” Farooq said. “It’s about condemning who is doing the wrong thing. And if we don’t do it, then silence becomes consent. If we keep quiet and don’t do anything, it means that we are okay with the oppressors.”
According to Edwards, the mediation to discuss the resolution aims to give opportunity to represent both interests while hearing their concerns and suggestions.
“This [mediation] is to help with disputes that may cause turmoil in the future and allow for collaboration on inclusive language that allows the students of Kashmir an opportunity to be heard, but the students of India or those who believe in their government to not feel completely excluded and blamed for the actions taking place,” Edwards said. “Once we have the mediation, the hope is to have a cohesive document that has multiple pillars of support from all demographics on campus.”
The SG Relations Committee oversees all the resolutions and is in charge of passing it to the Senate. In order for the resolution to be passed, a motion needs to be held and it must win by a majority of votes, both in the senate and in the Relations Committee.
Manushi Shah, president of the Students of India Association (SIA), shared why she believes representing the Indian demographic in the drafting of the resolution is important.
“The main reason why I had to be a spokesperson in this setting is because, as president of the Students of India Association (SIA), I have to keep my own bias and opinions aside to ensure that I’m representing the Indian demographic to their best interest,” Shah said. “By participating in these discussions, I’m ensuring that the students from India have a voice.”
According to SG Senate President Pro-Tempore Hernán Eduardo Benavides Córdova, the Relations Committee is trying to find a more neutral way to change some of the language while listening to both sides of the conflict.
“The role of SG is to support our students being affected by the issue addressed in the resolution,” Córdova said. “While we condemn the issue that is happening in Kashmir, we are not turning our backs to the Indian students. We don’t want to make them feel unsafe or that their concerns are not being heard.”
The date for the next meeting to discuss the resolution has not been decided yet. Students, including from the Pakistani Students Association (PSA) and the SG senate, started working on the resolution three weeks ago and it has not yet been passed.